So You Don’t Want to Be a PITT Parent?
Six Not-So-Weird Tricks for Keeping Your Kid Safe(r) from Gender Mania
PITT readership continues to grow dramatically as more families are impacted by transgender ideology, and journalists, therapists, and researchers become interested in developing a deeper understanding of its complexities. As much as PITT parents would tell you that we have developed new strengths forged in fire, we would also tell you that we wish this experience on no parent or child. Many of us deeply regret what we did not know and did not do with our kids. If we could go back in time, here are six guiding principles we would share with our younger and oh-so-naïve selves. Perhaps they would have made a difference—but it’s also important to note that parents who’ve tried some of these strategies have had mixed results in today’s cultural climate. Your child is unique, and so are your family and your community. Please share your own tips and ideas in the comments below.
Teach your children that sex is immutable. As questions arise with your young child, be crystal clear that biology makes someone a girl or a boy, not what people like to do, their personalities, their hairstyles, or their clothes. As your children enter school, tell them that while it’s essential to be kind to those who wish they were the opposite sex, a boy with long hair wearing a dress is just a boy with long hair wearing a dress, no matter what others may say.
Teach them that children do not keep secrets from their parents. As part of the regular safety conversations you should be having with your children, let them know that it puts them in danger if they keep secrets from you. If anyone, including adults they trust, tells them to keep a secret, they should let you know what’s going on right away.
Delay internet access and smartphones as long as possible. Keep a family computer in a shared space for homework use, and wait to get your child a smartphone—consider a cell phone with no internet connection instead. Take a digital safety course for parents. Set firm family boundaries and limitations and directly monitor internet use. Install parental supervision tools and block, block, block. Have kids sign a cell phone contract. Let them know you will gradually loosen supervision as they get older. Consider important safety rules such as no devices in the bedrooms and having devices turned off at a certain time. A lot of us trusted our kids, but it was not enough. It’s hard, and you’re busy, but the internet is a scary place and very harmful. If you’re not raising your children, strangers will be.
Get offline yourself. Prioritize family activities and conversations with your kids over your own digital life. Slow down. Model reading physical books and magazines, getting out in nature, and enjoying life together. Stay connected with your relatives, tell old family stories and myths, and regularly pull out family photo albums and videos.
Inspire your child with both real-world and fantasy examples of corresponding-sex adolescents and adults. With young children, reinforce the fun of being the sex they are, and create special connections and events based on sex and not gender norms, ie “just the girls are camping this weekend!” Read or watch stories together about teen adventures with heroes that are gender-expansive, who may struggle with puberty, who may be figuring out that they’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but who persevere. Be explicit that puberty is an uncomfortable time for everyone. As they get older, develop rites of passage that you talk about for the future and then celebrate when they arrive. Some examples could be the first time walking to school alone, volunteering in the community, getting their driver's license, or earning money independently. You might say to a six-year-old: “Do you know what’s wild? Someday you’ll be big enough to earn your own money, come right into this toy store all by yourself, and buy anything you want! And when you do that, I’m going to bake you a cake.” Make sure you keep track of your promises and follow through.
Help your child with ADHD or on the autism spectrum find real-world activities and social connections that encourage a sense of belonging. Children and adolescents who are on the spectrum or who have other neurological differences may struggle to find and maintain friendships through the standard school and neighborhood routes. They are particularly vulnerable to obsessing about gender for a variety of reasons, including that they’ve always felt different from their peers. Signs of autism and ADHD differ significantly between the sexes and can be masked in younger children. You may not recognize that your child needs evaluation until they begin to struggle academically or socially as teens. Seek out expert advice to help children understand and manage peer relationships more productively. Don’t let them rely on strangers online for their social life. It’s dangerous for their mental health in so many ways and may be dangerous for their physical health, too. And if your child has friends who are transitioning either online or at school, recognize immediately that questioning a gender identity is in play for your kid with neurological differences, too.
Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
Parent/Teen Breakthrough by Mira Kirshenbaum and Charles Foster
Desist, Detrans & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult by Maria Keffler
What Your Teen Is Trying to Tell You by Stella O’Malley