How to create a gender neutral environment for our children
Gender stereotypes are ingrained in our society, and it's surprising to see how everything related to our children is gendered - clothes, toys, games, etc.
Gender stereotypes harm our children's development and cause skill gaps for both girls and boys. Boys can do certain things that girls cannot, and vice versa, are ideas that begin to form in our children's minds. As they age, this becomes a thought process, and they see everything through a gender-specific lens.
Gender equality is something we must teach our children from the beginning, and it is critical to educate ourselves on the subject. It's easy to fall into the trap of - pink is for girls and blue is for boys- but let's keep such stereotypes at bay and create an environment emphasising gender equality.
If we want our children to be open-minded and free, we must create a gender-neutral environment at home where they can express their likes and dislikes without regard for gender.
As a parent, it is vital to provide a gender-neutral environment for your child to promote open-mindedness and acceptance of all individuals, regardless of gender.
Here are some tips on how to create a gender-neutral environment for your baby or child:
Avoid gender stereotypes
Your little one learns about the world from their surroundings, you and others, and what they are told.
For example, if your son wants to play with a doll, but they are told, dolls are only for girls, he will believe it and will never approach a doll again, and will tease other boys who play with dolls.
This is the first and most crucial step in creating a safe, gender-sensitive environment for your children. Follow your little one's lead, and allow them to choose their toys in the colour of their choice.
It is vital to remember that if your little one decides to play with a gender-stereotyped toy, such as a girl wanting to play with a pink doll, then let her do so.
Don't stop them from playing in the name of being gender-neutral. As long as your child has picked up that toy out of their interest and enjoyment, it's ok. Forcing them, either way, will defeat the purpose.
Avoid purchasing clothes, toys, or other items that are stereotypical of gender, such as trucks for boys and dolls for girls. Instead, opt for neutral colours and toys that all can enjoy.
Create a safe space
Ensure your child always feels safe and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Please allow them to express their emotions freely regardless of gender; a boy, like a girl, can cry. Set no limitations or boundaries on their emotional expression, as emotions have no gender.
Encourage your child to interact with children of the opposite gender.
When children only play with the same gender, the opportunity to become familiarised and empathetic with children of the opposite gender is lost.
Use gender-neutral language
Use gender-neutral language when referring to your child or other individuals, such as "they" instead of "he" or "she."
Encourage various activities
Encourage your child to explore different activities and interests, regardless of gender association.
Allow them to try dancing, sports, gymnastics, drama, etc., regardless of gender, and follow their interests and enjoyment instead.
Get them involved in the household chores; little ones can help to make dinner by peeling and cutting the vegetables, and they can also help with dusting and putting a load of dirty clothes in the washing machine.
Older children can make their bed every morning, wash the dishes, etc.
Boys and girls can learn the same skills for managing the housework and develop confidence in their abilities.
Educate your child
Talk to your child about gender and diversity, and explain that people can identify differently and should be respected for who they are.
Children learn through observation. For example, they notice gender-neutral behaviour at home and pick up on it when they listen to such conversations.
Be mindful of the language you use in front of your little ones as they learn from you and will copy your words and actions.
So make sure to share the household load with your partner and ensure your children see you both involved with the housework, do it together and involve your little one as well
Read books that raise awareness about gender equality. Inform and teach them that gender does not define roles or career opportunities.
Books and stories that teach lessons such as "gender doesn't matter when it comes to success" or "men and women can do the same jobs and feel the same emotions."
This teaches children that they can be themselves and express themselves freely.
Here are five stories challenging gender stereotypes:
Pink is for Boys By Robb Pearlman
This celebration of the colours of the rainbow, featuring a diverse cast of characters, encourages kids to reject rigid gender norms and follow their passions.
Julian is a Mermaid By Jessica Love
This is the story of Julián and his supportive abuela (grandmother). Inspired by some magically dressed women he sees on the subway, Julián creates his unique mermaid costume.
Neither By Airlie Anderson
Everyone is a blue bunny or a yellow bird in the Land of This and That. Everyone, that is, except Neither. Will Neither find a place to fit in?
Zog by Julia Donaldson
Zog is the keenest dragon in school. But, unfortunately, he's also the most accident-prone. Luckily, a mysterious little girl always patches up his bumps and bruises. The end of this story comes with a twist and a lovely message, a reminder of the importance of not being afraid to be different and having the courage to follow your heart.
When Aidan Became A Brother By Kyle Lukoff
A sweet story about a transgender boy becoming himself and preparing to welcome a new sibling. Aidan wants everything perfect for the baby's arrival but learns he already has all he needs to be a big brother.
In conclusion, by creating a gender-neutral environment for your child, you can promote a sense of acceptance, inclusivity and diversity, which can help shape them into more understanding and open-minded individuals.
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