In pursuit of a kinder, more accepting society, it is absolutely critical to raise children who inclusive of those around them. In this post, positive parenting educator and Certified Life Coach Giselle Baumet discusses how we can raise a generation of LGBTQ+ inclusive kids who understand, embrace, and affirm this community.
Today, 7.1% of U.S. adults – and 21% of Gen Z adults (born between 1997 and 2003) – identify as LGBTQ+. So it’s become more important than ever to raise a generation of LGBTQ + inclusive kids.
So many who identify as LGBTQ+ struggle with mental health issues, often resulting from being excluded or rejected by their family or community. As a society, we must do our part to become more inclusive, kind, and affirming to these people.
As a parent of four children, I’ve made it an essential part of my parenting to raise kids who are inclusive and affirming of the LGBTQ+ community. In this article, I will share ways to do the same.
Younger Millennials, Generation Z, and the newest generation, Alpha, utilize an excellent and thorough vocabulary for identification and acceptance than previous generations, namely, Generation X and Boomers, did. This means that today’s children have greater freedom to identify themselves and understand how others identify.
It’s essential that, as parents, we educate ourselves to understand better the terminology around sexual orientation and gender expression, and identity.
For example, when a child speaks of their pansexual, binary friend, you want to instantly know what that means and have the proper language to talk with your child about their friend.
It is not the responsibility of our children to educate us on inclusive language, but rather, for us to model inclusive language for them.
When my teen son spoke of his friend Stephanie who recently began to use “they/them” pronouns, I immediately switched to using their pronouns whenever we talked about Stephanie.
As a model for my son, I didn’t question why they had changed pronouns, nor made excuses for why I would sometimes forget and use “she/her.” Instead, I corrected myself and used their proper pronouns.
The point is that I want my son and my other children to be as accepting and inclusive as they were watching me be.
But as someone who didn’t grow up with the same vocabulary that children have today, I had to educate myself on all the sexual orientations and gender expressions, and identities.
The wider your range of comprehension and language, the better conversations you’ll be able to have with your children about LGBTQ+ inclusivity and affirmation.
Break Gender Norms
If you’ve been shopping for kids’ clothing lately, you’ll notice that clothing for boys has trucks, dinosaurs, cars, and other gender norms that are socially acceptable for boys. Then head over to the girls’ section and find ballerinas, cupcakes, sparkles, etc. This has improved a bit in recent history, but there is still a long way to go.
These are societal gender norms that are no longer applicable to children today.
So part of your role as a parent raising LBGTQ+ inclusive children will be breaking societal gender norms within your family.
For example, there was a time when my now 13-year-old wanted to wear dresses every day. He found them freeing and beautiful, so we began to let him pick out dresses to wear. At the time, I received much negative feedback from others for that decision. But it was important that my child not be confined to gender norms, so that he would grow up to be inclusive of others that do not fit into gender norms.
Recently, my 9-year-old son has enjoyed taking showers in his sister’s bathroom because she has lovely scented body washes and salt scrubs. The social gender norm would have him use more “boy” scents as a boy. Still, because being inclusive is essential in our family, I took him to Target to pick out a variety of beautifully scented body washes and lotions that he could enjoy. And he was thrilled!
It might feel out of your comfort zone at first. But soon, you’ll be hyper-aware of societal gender norms and find ways to parent outside of them so that your children naturally feel safe and secure expressing themselves without any hesitations.
You might find it liberating for yourself to explore how you have fit into gender norms and ways that you can step out of them.
One of the ways I experienced this was in wearing clothing that felt a lot more comfortable to me, even though to others, they were clothing that a man more commonly wears.
Another place you’ll find gender norms that are not always applicable in today’s society is in television shows that your child watches. For example, in most shows, a girl likes a boy, or a boy likes a girl. More often than not, girls are undertaking very typical societal norm actions, and so are the boys. It’s rare to see scenarios with non-cis characters or nonbinary genders.
Use these scenarios in T.V. shows to question these norms and discuss topics of inclusivity and acceptance towards others that don’t operate under these standards.
And finally, you might find that you already do things outside of gender norms, and if so, I invite you to normalize doing so in your home.
Engage in the LBGTQ+ Community
It’s one thing to model and educate your children in being inclusive of the LGBTQ community, but as a parent, I’m sure you’ve already learned that actions matter much more than words.
You’ll want to find ways also to include yourself and your family in the LBGTQ+ community. It’s an actionable way of teaching children to normalize the concept that there are various sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.
Each year most cities will have a Pride Parade, and these are very family-friendly. You can also attend other local events that foster LBGTQ+ inclusivity or shop at LBGTQ-friendly businesses.
The more you engage in the LBGTQ+ community, the more you’ll find that it is a welcoming and friendly community that expands on your child’s ability to be inclusive.
Stand Up to Bullies
As you raise LBGTQ+ inclusive kids, you’ll also want to teach them how to stand up for their LBGTQ+ friends and speak up when any of their friends say negative things about the LBGTQ+ community.
Being a good ally to our LBGTQ+ friends means not being complacent with others around you who may be using language that is not LBGTQ-inclusive or is unkind towards the community.
Examples of words to teach your child to use in these situations include:
“That is unkind and I do not want to continue talking to you if you use language like that.”
“The words you used are not ok to use for LBGTQ+ people. Therefore, I cannot continue this discussion with such words.”
“I choose to be inclusive and kind to LBGTQ+ people, and I hope you will too.”
“That is not ok, I don’t use language like that.”
“Instead of using those words, try using LBGTQ+ people.”
“In my family, we are inclusive and kind towards all LBGTQ+ people.”
You can also want to encourage your child to come to you if they have friends who use derogatory language towards the LBGTQ+ community. Together, you can determine how to handle the situation best.
As parents, we can raise inclusive and affirming children for the growing population of LBGTQ+ people. Ways we do so include educating ourselves, breaking gender norms, being in a community with LBGTQ+ people, and speaking up when we hear others being unkind or exclusive of the LBGTQ+ community.
As parents, we also play a role in supporting the mental health of LBGTQ+ people who often feel left out, unaccepted, and isolated within our society.
This work in our parenting is also one that we can normalize within our circles and practice through modeling acceptance and inclusion.
Giselle Baumet is a Certified Life Coach, positive parenting educator, herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at gisellebaumet.com.