Tag Archives: children

Could your child be gay?

Paula, with permission by DavidKnoxJust came across a fabulous article on Parenting.com about the questions a parent might have regarding their child’s sexuality. No matter how much we might come to accept and respect sexuality as diverse and complex, many parents secretly worry about whether their own child might be gay, lesbian or bisexual. This might because they worry they will face discrimination and their lives will be harder, less traditional, somehow unlike their own. Or they might harbour misconceptions about disease and morality or believe homosexuality is a sin.

No matter the reason for the underlying worry, the first rule of good parenting always applies: find a way to love your child for who they are, not who you want them to be.

Author Stephanie Dolgoff explains that kids may experiment with all kinds of gender positions while young, so parents shouldn’t be concerned if their 4-year-old son dresses up like a Disney Princess or their daughter develops an obsession with playing hockey. However, evidence suggests that consistent long-term preference for clothing, styles, interests or activities usually associated with the opposite sex may well be an indication of your child’s emerging sexuality.

Even more important, experts say that there is nothing a parent does to “turn” their kid gay, just as there is nothing you can do to “turn” them heterosexual.

The most important thing: Find a way to love and accept your child for who s/he is. Not doing so can have terrible consequences. Kids facing rejection from their families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide. New research published in the medical journal Pediatrics also suggests that lesbian, gay or bisexual kids who experience strong rejection from their parents are nearly six times more likely to experience serious depression and three to five times more likely to use illegal drugs or have unprotected sex.

“You need to make the decision that your child’s happiness and safety is totally unrelated to his sexual orientation,” says Judy Shepard, cofounder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a group that works to foster a more accepting environment for all people, including the LGBT community. In 1998 in Wyoming, Shepard’s 21-year-old son was beaten, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. “It can be hard, though. Many parents feel they are responsible. They think, ‘What did I do wrong?”

Read the rest of the Parenting.com article here.

And, as always, I highly recommend parents and kids turn to Scarleteen.com for solid, fact, based, non-judgmental sexual health information.

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Keeping our kids safe – what I’ll be talking about this Sunday

I’m really excited to be a featured speaker this Sunday at Montreal Families Magazine’s first ever Parenting Workshop, along with study skills and homework expert Carolyn Melmed. Space is filling up fast, so if you’ll be in Montreal this weekend, click on the link above and reserve your seat now.

I thought it might be useful to offer readers a quick overview of what I’ll be covering. Called “The Power of Positive Parenting: Preventing Risky Behaviours,” I’ll be talking about why it’s never too early to prepare your child to deal with the many confusing and conflicting messages they get concerning high-risk activities. What does smoking have to do with your preschooler? Why would you worry about Facebook or drinking alcohol if your kid is in grade 2? And if you already have a high schooler, I’ll talk about why it’s not too late to put prevention strategies into play.

To better understand the answers to these questions, I’ll be offering an overview of what high-risk activities are, and providing surprising information on when kids first start experimenting with them. I’ll be talking about the current research on children’s and adolescent’s brain development, and how understanding how their minds work can help us better tailor our prevention strategies. I’ll provide specific, concrete and practical age-based strategies for how to prepare your kids, so that they are better able to resist peer and media influence and develop important coping strategies. Worried your teen is already in trouble? I will tell you what your options are for seeking help. I will also point parents towards online resources for more specific information on different risk activities.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested in learning more about thinking ahead.

Can’t make it this Sunday? Not in Montreal? Interested in bringing me in to speak to parents or teachers at your child’s school or community centre? Email me at alissasklar@hotmail.com to discuss the range of workshops I can offer for parents, educators and students on high risk behaviours, Internet safety and more.

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Push-up bikini tops for 7-year-olds? Too sexy, too soon

Abercrombie & Fitch, the American clothing retailer infamous for its highly sexualized and occasionally racist advertising, recently revised the description on its Abercrombie Kids‘ line of triangle bathing suit tops  from “push-up” to “lightly padded.” (Watch CNN coverage of this subtle marketing shift here.) Asking why girls and pre-teens need to push up what they don’t actually have seems kind of pointless when you look at the image they’ve chosen to illustrate the swimwear line: a headless, extremely thin young woman with boobs. Nothing girlish about that body.

And that’s exactly the point.

These “lightly padded” string bikini tops are all about giving the illusion of boobs. Apparently this is desirable in third grade, because that’s who is being targeted. Abercrombie is a repeat offender here; in 2002, they bowed to public pressure and pulled a line of girls’ bikini and thong underwear printed with slogans like “eye candy” and “wink wink.”

It’s easy to point a finger at Abercrombie, but it’s clearly not just them. A recently released study of children’s clothes for sale in 15 popular U.S. stores found a full 30% qualified as sexualized (meaning it emphasized a sexual body part, had characteristics associated with sexiness or had sexually suggestive writing).

Why is this a problem? Well, it teaches kids that their own bodies should be judged by the narrow standards of others – according to very rigidly defined ideas of beauty and desirability. This kind of self-identification is consistently linked with depression, low self-image, low self confidence and body dissatisfaction. Kids learn that their bodies are for the pleasure of others — but only if they fit into these very strict, highly idealized parameters.

It also encourages kids to display their bodies in sexual ways years before they have the maturity, judgment and experience to handle to responses they will generate from others.

The American Psychological Association published a report in 2007 on the “broad and increasing problem of the sexualization of girls,” in which they listed the potential areas of negative fallout: cognitive and emotional consequences, mental and physical health, sexual well-being, attitudes and beliefs, impact on others and on society.

Among their recommendations, they suggest parents and educators use instances of sexualized ads and articles of clothing to talk to their kids about what they see. They also suggest positive alternatives to sexualization, including a focus on physical fitness, intelligence, cultural diversity and social sensitivity. Finally, it makes sense for parents to speak up when they see something objectionable in a store.

References: Goodin S et al (2011). “Putting on” sexiness: a content analysis of the presence of sexualizing characteristics in girls’ clothing. Sex Roles; DOI 10.1007/s11199-011-9966-8

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