How to Discuss Gender Identity With Your Child

There was a time parents wondered at what age they should have “the talk,” with their child. You know, the one about the birds and the bees. As society has changed and gender and sexual issues have become prominent topics, many parents now wonder how young is too young to talk about things like gender identity with their child.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that discussing gender identity is NOT the same thing as discussing sexual intercourse. Gender is not about sexual orientation (whom you are attracted to) but about how people connect with one another and orient themselves in the world.

So how should you talk to your kids about gender identity? While there is no right or wrong age to have this conversation, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind that will help make it go smoothly.

Be Comfortable

In order to talk comfortably about this topic, you’ve got to first make sure you are comfortable with the language and concepts of gender identity yourself. It will help if you can familiarize yourself with some people who are transgender.

You most likely know about Caitlyn Jenner, but search the Internet for other stories of real people. Here is a young transgendered girl named Jazz. Her story might give you some important insights that will help you talk with your own child.

Be Open Minded

While some children may go to their parents with questions about gender simply because of things they’ve seen or heard outside of the home, others will have questions about themselves. Parents should never make assumptions about their child’s gender identity based on their interests or activities.

For instance, because a boy likes playing sports doesn’t mean that he doesn’t identify as a girl and vice versa. So, for instance, when discussing a topic like, “who do you have a crush on at school,” be open minded and ask if it’s a boy or a girl. Whatever their answer is, your child will appreciate that you accept them no matter what.

Be Prepared

Before giving a presentation or going for an important job interview, most people practice and make sure they know what they are going to say and how they are going to answer questions. While you don’t want to come off as robotic with your child, you do want to look and act very comfortable. Your child will definitely pick up on any discomfort you may be feeling.

For this reason, you may want to have practice conversations with friends or family. You may find you have friends who are also preparing to have the same conversation with their child. Use each other to practice on.

Seek Help

Some families may find it beneficial to work with a family therapist, who can facilitate clear, honest communication.

If you and your child would like the added support of a neutral third party who can guide the conversation toward positive outcomes, please get in touch with me today.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that typically occurs after individuals have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious accident, natural disaster, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

In the past, PTSD went by different names. During and right after the years of World War 1, the term “shell shock” was often used. After World War 2, “combat fatigue” was the term that signified a reaction to a high level of stress or trauma.

It’s important to mention that PTSD is not experienced only by combat veterans, but can occur in all people. According to PTSD United, an estimated 24.4 million people in the United States have PTSD at any given time. That is equal to the total population of Texas.

What is it Like to Have PTSD?

Sufferers of PTSD continue to have intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings regarding the traumatic experiencing. Though the event itself may have taken place weeks, months or even years ago, the thoughts and feelings are fresh in the person’s mind. They may relive events through flashbacks or nightmares.

Often individuals feel isolated and detached from other people, and take great measures to avoid situations that may remind them of the traumatic event. They may even have strong, negative reactions to ordinary experiences that involve noises or an accidental touch.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories and can vary in severity from individual to individual.

  1. Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can take many forms: involuntary memories, nightmares and flashbacks are commonly experienced by those with PTSD. These thoughts can be so completely vivid that the individual fully believes they are reliving the traumatic experience in the moment.

  1. Avoiding Situations

Avoiding any and all reminders of the traumatic event typically requires the individual to avoid people, places, activities and situations that can bring on disturbing memories and thoughts. Individuals may also avoid conversations about the experience and lash out at those who ask if they want to talk about it.

  1. Distorted Ideas

It is common for those with PTSD to have distorted thoughts and beliefs about themselves or others, ongoing fear, anger, guilt or shame. These thoughts can look like, “I am a bad person,” “I can’t trust anyone,” or “I should have died, not her.” As a result of these distortions, individuals often have less interest in activities they once enjoyed and also begin to feel detached or estranged from loved others.

  1. Reactive Behavior

Reactive behavior associated with PTSD can include having angry outbursts, becoming easily irritable, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

Many people who experience a traumatic event may experience symptoms like these in the days following the event. However, people with PTSD will experience these symptoms for months and even years. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems.

If you or someone you know is living with PTSD and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

What is Family Therapy and What is it For?

Family therapy is a type of counseling that helps family members improve communication and resolve conflicts. Session are typically led by either a clinical social worker, psychologist, or licensed therapist.

Unlike individual therapy, where people may participate in weekly sessions          for years, family therapy is intended to be short-term. Session may include all family members, or just those who are willing and able to attend.

Treatment plans are unique and will be based on your family’s personal issues and goals. With that said, all sessions focus on teaching skills to rebuild, or in some cases build, family connections and cope with problems as a loving and cohesive unit.

Problems commonly addressed are martial or financial problems, conflict between children and parents, and the impact of mental illness or substance abuse on the entire family.

Family therapy can be pursued at the same time as a member is in individual therapy. For instance, if a family member is suffering from depression, the entire family is affected and can benefit from open discussion of the issue in family therapy. The person suffering from depression will also continue with his or her individualized treatment plan, which may include medications, one-on-one counseling or other treatment.

What You Can Expect

Family therapy will typically bring together several family members for therapy sessions. Not all members will be required for each session, and most therapists are willing to create a treatment plan that is flexible and takes into account the family’s schedule.

Most sessions are about an hour, and the overall goal is to facilitate positive change within a six-month period. Some families may meet once a week, every week, while others may meet less often or more often. How many session you’ll need will depend on your family’s particular needs and the recommendation of your therapist.

During family therapy, you can:

  • Examine your family’s ability to problem solve and communicate thoughts and feelings in a healthy way
  • Identify your family’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Explore family roles, dynamics, rules and behavior patterns so that you can begin to spot issues that frequently contribute to conflict, as well as learn ways to work through them together

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.