Hudson Valley Parent

HVP July 2019

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Page 22 of 35 n Hudson Valley Parent 23 frankly pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. I say 'ridiculous' because, well, first of all a baby won't care one way or the other. Secondly, choosing they/ them for your baby is still choosing for them, and that's what you're trying to avoid," O'Connor says. She gives this advice. "Discuss the topic of gender with your child when you feel they are ready, and offer the option of different pronouns if they ever felt the need to change them ... part of being a child or teenager is exploring your identity, and this is no different. Some things stay and some things go. It's part of growing up, and as parents, it should be part of your job to support these things as they stay or go." Avoid unnecessary confusion Sandy Essington is Kaitlyn's mother and also a licensed clinical social worker with a practice in Lagrangeville and 30 years of professional experience, much of it working with teens. She doesn't believe there's an optimal age to allow a child to choose their pronouns. "I believe that raising a child using neutral pronouns from birth can cause more unnecessary confusion than support. Raising a child without traditional gendered clothing, toys, roles and expectations is a better way of teaching your child that gender is not important and that they can enjoy anything regardless of gender." Children generally have a sense of their own gender identity between the ages of two and four but according to Essington, children can begin to identify other than their assigned gender at any age after that as well. "Regardless of the age, I believe that supporting your child in the gender they identify teaches your child that you love and respect them for who they are." Provide support and options while your child forges their own identity Essington says her daughter's school and doctors were respectful and supportive during the time Kaitlyn was (Continued on Page 24)

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