Understanding a child’s non-binary identity, which means not identifying strictly as male or female, might be challenging for some parents due to societal expectations around gender norms.
If your child expresses a non-binary identity, you may grapple with a range of emotions from misunderstanding to self-blame. You may consider it a stage your child will grow out of, or you might think it is a whim that is best ignored. But it is important to remember that gender diversity has always been present in society, even if societal norms have historically shown a preference for ‘boys to be boys’ and ‘girls to be girls’ in the way they dress, behave and present themselves.
Your child’s expression of their gender identity, whether it starts as early as age two or during their adolescent years, is an intrinsic part of who they are, so it is important for parents to acknowledge and accept the way their child chooses to express their gender.
The first step for parents is to educate themselves in order to provide the best support for their non-binary child.
Key Insights to Understanding Non-Binary Identity
While it may be well outside your own experiences, knowledge and understanding are key to providing your non-binary child with the support they need.
- Being non-binary does not mean your child has a mental health issue. But without adequate support a child can begin to experience mental health issues if they face challenges such as isolation from their peers or bullying at school, which can negatively impact their emotional wellbeing.
- Non-binary children experiencing rejection or exclusion from gender-specific situations at school such as sports teams and restroom facilities can feel confused and left out.
- When a non-binary child’s choice of pronouns, name, hairstyle and dress is ignored or dismissed, their self-confidence and sense of worth is diminished.
- As non-binary children approach puberty the physical changes to their bodies can intensify feelings of gender dysphoria, challenging their perception of self and heightening their sense of incongruence with their birth assigned gender.
Practical Ways Parents Can Support Non-Binary Children
Parental and family support is vital, and guidance from mental health professionals can be highly beneficial even though gender diversity isn’t a mental health concern. Steps parents can take include:
- Listening to your child and validating their choices by being accepting and positive. Respect your child’s chosen name, pronouns, and self-expression.
- Seeking professional guidance for yourself and your child if need be. A family therapist can provide the guidance and resources you need to better understand your child. This isn’t because being non-binary is a problem or a disorder, but because navigating societal reactions can be challenging.
- Building a support system for yourself. Join support groups for parents of non-binary children and connect with other parents or individuals who can share similar experiences while providing you with guidance, knowledge and support.
- Engaging with your child’s school. Advocate for a school environment and policies with are inclusive and respectful of all genders. Speak with the school counsellor and your child’s teachers to enlist their support for your child in the school community.
- Explore all available resources. Platforms such as the parents of gender diverse children website can offer valuable insights and help you to understand any aspects that might worry you.
Where To Find Professional Support For Non-Binary Children And Parents
At Relational Minds Child And Family Mental Health Clinics in Victoria, we believe in a holistic approach that supports the child, their parents and their family members. We offer programs, resources and services tailored to assist families in understanding and supporting non-binary children.
Connect with us to discuss how we can support you, your non-binary child and your family’s journey.