Opening up with your children on sexuality!
Created by Megha Chawla Updated on Jan 05, 2016
I know writing this blog won’t be easy, here’s what prompted me to write this one.A 15 year old class XI topper from Agra set himself on fire after he was caught by a neighbour getting intimate with a male friend. As he was teased and harassed about it, he locked himself in the room for two days and then set himself on fire by pouring diesel on himself. He sustained 40% burns with severe burns on the legs and chest. A distinction holder, he is currently pursuing science and aspires to be an engineer.
Though out of danger, he is unable to speak. The news piece obviously has been shared on social media and various facebook groups and has started a debate of sorts on parenting groups.To be honest, I have no sides that I can take, because I am unable to see this in black or white. For me there is more to this story than it meets the eye and there are several questions that I ask myself as a parent.
Did he really know what we doing was it just another bout of teenager experiments or was it just a realization of his choice and preference? But the larger question here is, why he took such an extreme step, is it because he knew ‘this’ would never be accepted or respected and that he may be an outcast for his family and society forever?
There may be several opinions on this, to each his own. But I do have some my own learning from this one
Is it time to break gender stereotypes in our minds first and then on minds of our children.
This one is going to be a difficult one, because we are so use to defining genders, we have clear definitions of what it means to be a boy or a girl. We get so worried and upset on the slightest indication of a boy liking pink or wanting to play with a doll and label them to have ‘feminine’ desires for all their lives or a girl who loves ‘Superman’ to have ‘masculine’ desires. Some even assume that ‘such’ children will grow up to be gay.
1. Try not to jump to assumptions and telling them not to do/try a particular thing because it’s a clear trait of other gender. (Sometimes how we tell our boys not to cry because only girls cry and we end up asking them ‘Are you a girl’?)
2. Let them explore- Give them opportunities to explore gender identities, roles, different toys, styles of playing and even dressing.
3. Help them in developing their gender identity- Around 2 years old, children become conscious of the physical differences between boys and girls. By age 4, most children have a stable sense of their gender identity, they also learn gender role behaviour ‘this is what boys do’ and this is ‘what girls do’. Try and speak to your child and help them develop their gender identities minus too much focus on the roles of each gender.
4. Keep communicating to them about their ideas on gender diversity, roles and behaviour
Is it time to open some new doors to acknowledge, accept and teach our children diversity in gender identities
As parents if we can create a conducive environment for our child, one that accepts, reflects and respects diversity in gender roles. Some of the ways we could inculcate these are –
1.Toys and books- Exposing them to different toys, books showing men and women in diverse gender roles- ( stay at home dads, working moms, women fire fighters)
2. Encouraging and buying gender neutral toys and sporting activities.
3. Clothing and choice of colors- Giving them freedom to choose what they want to wear and colors they want to choose.
4. Encouraging friendships that are not based on gender alone.
· Raise our kids to respect differences and become more tolerant
Times are changing and so are our expectations from ‘what a girl is supposed to do and what a boy is supposed to do’. Girls are now actively taking to all the sports and boys have no shame in pursuing arts. So we may start with normalizing all behaviour displayed by both boys and girls and not label things and behaviours belonging to typical genders.
1. Respect and support if your child has interest and abilities different from what society expects. This will go a long way in making them confident individuals who respect and accept other people’s choices too.
2. Love them with their choices- Sometimes children get worried and not express their choices for the fear of rejection and people not accepting them and loving them. As parents, we are their greatest strength- Accepting your child and letting them know that no matter what their preferences are, you as parents will always support and love them unconditionally.
I know it’s easier said, try and be relaxed about cross- gender behaviour. It’s important that children don’t feel judged or rejected, especially by their own parents.
As a mother, I understand that it is natural for parents to want their child to be accepted socially. But haven’t we graduated from what was ‘what was accepted socially then to now’. My niece’s friend a class XI student just came out and announced he is gay everyone was surprised not by the fact he is gay but because his mother supported him and encouraged him to come out.
I was moved by her courage to stand up with her son and face the world. People said all sorts of things to her, but I see her today happy and connected with her son and the son doing really well in studies and extra-curricular.
I realized it’s not the easiest thing to do as a mother but it taught me, what’s more important is accept my child as she is, make my child feel comfortable and good about herself and love her unconditionally and it will automatically give my child the confidence to face the world with her differences and respect others for theirs. At times my child’s behaviour may not conform to both my and the society’s expectation but rather than forcing my child into the mold of what’s accepted I will let her fulfill her own unique potential.
Coming back to the news piece, it inspires me to work on my path to become more aware, talk to my child more, open more doors, listen to her ideas and be less concerned about my child’s interests coinciding with society.
| Jan 07, 2016
Nice one megha, but unfortunately parents don't want to discuss issues like this with their children and a bigger confusion is when to start talking, what age and how. You have tried to sum up nicely but another blog on jut talking sexuality will be great. See if you can throw some light on it