Children of today will grow up as the adults of tomorrow and therefore it is important to groom them as responsible youth. Because of the recent extreme sexual harassment cases against women, such as rape in recent times it has becomes more important to sensitize your child towards gender-based atrocities and develop a mindset that will never favor such acts. Gender sensitization among kids can be consciously practiced to bring them up in a gender-neutral environment. We have come up with a few tips. Have a check:
Dr. Preeti Singh Senior Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist, Paras Hospitals says, “Gender is a very important facet of our identity. It should be tackled in a sensitive manner and given attention as it is essential in building healthy relationships.”
As your child grows, it starts to associate itself with a certain set of things. For example, the home environment will influence her and she will imbibe the thought processes of her immediate family. Therefore, an environment built towards fostering respect for women will go a long way.
As parents never differentiate between your children because of gender as such biases holds on to the memory for long. They might also begin to behave in similar ways believing it is right. So it important for kids to be have gender neutral influences. Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health & Behavioural Science, Fortis Healthcare in Mumbai opines, “The feedback and encouragement that children receive from their teachers and parents also educate them about the acceptability of their behaviors.”
Always encourage your child to be a compassionate irrespective of the gender.
Stereotypical Role models
“Families are often based on very strong gender roles. By observing the varied roles played by parents, and identifying with the same sex parent, children come to understand gender characteristics, gender roles and gendered expectations. In other words, what it means to be a boy or a girl,” Dr. Parikh also explains.
It is seen most often that parents distribute tasks according to gender. This should be strictly avoided. Why should only boys run errands or bring out the garbage, whereas a girl is told to clean the kitchen table or tidy up the room? I do not advocate this and nor should you too.
Dr Singh says, “On the basis of early experiences one develops gender schemes which are cognitive structures used to organise information about male and female genders. Researchers have established that gender roles are influenced by parents. Expectations from children are called differential expectations and the rewards or encouragements are referred as differential reinforcement. Children identify and imitate their parents.”
Avoid biases as they will grow up believing that society works this was too. It is your duty as a parent to be able to break these stereotypes.
Media plays an important role in shaping the outlook of your child. Books, television shows and cartoons mould the child’s outlook and expectations. Most media influences are stereotypical which is sure to cast an impression on young minds. There are no rules as such that boys must read Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew is reserved for girls. These are just social norms followed generations after generations. Do not judge your child based on pre-conceived notions and social stigmas. Make her understand that it’s ok to be different and pursue dreams that do not match the description of her favorite comic or movie. Being a girl or boy never comes in the way of what your child wants to be.
Keep an eye on what your child watches on television. Items numbers, vulgar songs and obscene shows will create a bad image on their minds. There will be many instances when you won’t be able constantly monitor. I therefore feel that it is best to instill in them as sense of respect for the opposite sex.
Dr. Anmol Annadate, pediatrician and child psychologist, emphasizes that gender biases may be the reason of emotional weakness in children. “Boys who cry are labeled as sissies, whereas a girl who indulges in tough activities will be referred to as a tom boy; this differentiation does not allow a child to express his real emotions.”
Power, strength, domination, rage are qualities that are very male centric whereas love, nurture, warmth, care and submissiveness are attributed to a girl. Due to these build associations in the minds of little kids that they tend to believe that violent acts like rape and domination are justified.
It is mandatory to establish a positive role model for your children. Encourage girls to be independent and boys on the other hand should be taught to be gentle and caring. This will help them treat women with respect and not as objects of gratification.
School is a place where your child will meet more minds like theirs. It is important that they are in the right company. Teachers are always considered as good role models. They should never differentiate between their students as it could be harmful for the kid’s morale. Kids should be encouraged to play all kind of sports, irrespective of their gender. Who says boys can’t dance and girls can’t play football? They may learn and play whatever they want. Thus schools play an important role in establishing gender sensitivity especially today when all schools are becoming co-ed educational centers.
Dr. Gorav Gupta, Psychiatrist, Tulasi healthcare, says, “Kids need to be educated about sexual relationships. It is important that they understand that intimacy is not the only form of emotion or acceptance.”
As your children grow older, their friends will begin to influence them. What they wear, watch and speak comes from influences. So if your daughter has only girlfriends she is bound to be all girly. Understand that knowing the opposite sex is very important to get a better perspective on communication and grasping individual capabilities. Encouraging friendships between both sexes is a very good idea.
“Incidences like rape are not gender-specific but person-specific. This is one thing that children need to be taught so that they don’t generalise situations. The attitude and thinking of a person makes a difference” says, Dr. Gupta.
Understand that girls need to be made self sufficient but not anti-men. Tolerance towards the opposite sex is as important as well. Avoid notions like men are criminals and not all women are clingy.
Children should be taught to freely bring out their opinions and share their fears, so that they don’t hide their true feelings. Discussing incidences and latest news updates will open their minds to the outer world and break their bubble, making them more aware of their surroundings. They should be proud of their bodies and not ashamed for any reason.
“Since we do not have formal sex education in our schools as yet, it is vital that parents talk to their children about incidences like rape and make them aware of what is inappropriate behavior,” adds Dr. Gupta.
Bad experiences should not hold your child back
Dr. Gupta concludes by saying, “There are times when children draw blanket judgments on the basis of past experiences and influences. This may affect their present and future relationships. Sometimes children, who have been sexually abused or have friends who have been abuse victims, grow into individuals with personality problems. This could make negative individuals who have wrong impressions giving rise to more incidences of rape.”
Always keep record on your child’s movement and try to talk freely. Discuss their problems and help them overcome their fears. Note that children are very sensitive to reactions and therefore be alert while responding to your child’s sex and gender related queries.
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