Parents of children identifying as a gender other than their birth gender might wonder what age is appropriate to transition. When a child identifies as a different gender, parents might wonder if these feelings are just play or pretend.
Is My Child Transgender, or Is This Just a Phase?
Kids play as they grow up. They practice different roles, pretending to be “parents” as they play “house.” Kids dress up as superheroes on Halloween and have wild imaginations. When a child says they are now a different gender, is this just a form of play? Are they just trying the role on for size to see what fits? Will they change their mind as they get older?
Many parents worry about young children transitioning too early. They might fear, “What if they want to change back to their birth gender? Will it be too late to go back?”
These questions can be both complex and simple to answer. Yes, children do indeed play and pretend. They might act out the part of the opposite gender in the same way they pretend to be a dinosaur. Play and pretend help kids explore the world and figure out their place in it.
Play is like practicing for adulthood. Kids try on a different role and act out unfamiliar actions. The complexities that they learn during this time are remarkable. Consider how we all behave differently within different social contexts. We are different people at work versus at home, and we learned many of these skills by playing pretend as kids.
Does My Child Really Understand How They Feel?
However, transgender kids and other kids in the LGBTQA+ community might be going beyond pretending and play. Determining whether acting out a different gender role is just pretend or real might be based on their response if they are told to stop, or parents say, “No, you’re a boy or girl.”
Transgender kids feel more like themselves when they are allowed to be their preferred gender. When hearing stories of celebrities and public figures talking about their transition, we often hear that they always knew from an early age that they were different.
A child might feel upset or sad when they are told that they are not the gender they identify with. As parents insist that the child is their birth gender, the child continually insists that they are the opposite. Sometimes, as parents, we need to let go of our preconceptions and expectations. Then, we can just let our kids be who they choose to be.
When Will My Child Be Ready to Transition Genders?
Knowing exactly when a child will be ready to transition depends upon the child. Some kids know that something feels different about them at the age of three. Other kids begin to question their gender identity when they are a little older.
Speak to a professional who specializes in gender transitions about the process for children to transition. They can guide kids and their parents through the steps. Due to the high risk of mental health issues that transgender individuals face, therapy can help children transition while building strong coping skills to deal with a world that might struggle to accept them.
Kids will be ready when they are ready. Parents might feel overwhelmed if they don’t have all the answers. Instead, parents can let their children guide them through the process. Supporting kids through their transition might mean that parents let go of control.
How Can I Support My Child’s Transition?
Supporting a child through their transition involves learning to accept and love kids no matter what. Parents might need to process their own emotions about their child’s identity. Many parents have expectations of who their child will become. When a child transitions genders, parents might go through a grieving process to accept their child for who they are rather than who parents thought their child would be.
Parents can also learn more about transgender individuals and the LGBTQA+ community. The more that a parent knows about the experiences of other kids and parents, the better equipped they will be to support their child’s transition.
Children will grow up to be who they are. Attempting to control a child’s identity can result in children developing low self-esteem or becoming alienated from others. According to youth.gov, transgender individuals (and others in the LGBTQA+ community) are at a higher risk of suicide, addiction, homelessness, and mental health issues than other kids.
Parents can prevent these issues from occurring when their child transitions by loving and supporting kids no matter who they choose to be.
Parents of children who identify as a gender different from their birth might have several questions about supporting their child through their transition. Many parents wonder if a certain age for transitioning genders is more appropriate than another. Do younger children really understand what they are experiencing, or are they just playing “pretend?” A child will be ready when they express these feelings. Some kids might be much younger than others when they begin to identify as a different gender. Parents can support their children by loving and accepting them no matter what. Transgender kids are at a high risk of suicidal behaviors, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other issues. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help all teens who struggle. We offer a safe, secure, welcoming, and accepting environment for all kids, no matter how they choose to identify. For more about our programs, call us today at (303) 443-3343.