Gender Neutral Parenting of Your Foster Child

gender neutral parenting

Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP) isn’t so much about what clothes your child wears or what toys they can play with. It is about instilling confidence in your child and giving them the freedom to be who they truly are. This blog will explain why Gender Neutral Parenting of your foster child can help them cope with past difficulties and overcome future challenges.

It’s a fairly new concept that has been gaining ground quickly – that gender is more than just a binary system where boys and girls, men and women exist in separate worlds determined by their biological sex. Emerging schools of thought suggest quite the opposite – that gender is a broad spectrum where biological sex should play less of a part in determining where you fall or how you are labeled. According to the new school, the only person who should decide what gender you’ll be is you.

Many of those who are open to the concept of the gender spectrum are trying out a new parenting method called Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP), where children are free to explore gender roles without fear of reprimand. It’s a big departure from the norm, where children are directed into one role or another, and it may seem pretty shocking at first, but upon closer inspection it’s arguable that this non-judgmental upbringing can have many advantages for foster youth.

Gender Neutral Parenting of Your Foster Child: Help take off the pressure

Coming from a background of abuse and neglect means that our foster children are more likely to harbor feelings of inadequacy and self doubt than other children. Moreover, the pressure to conform their behavior to constantly shifting expectations as they move from family to family can add up and become overwhelming. Foster, adoptive and kinship parents are responsible for easing these pressures. Ensuring that the expectations parents have for their children do not clash with their children’s self-perception or ability to express themselves can go a long way toward taking some weight off their shoulders.

People who use GNP say that it’s about giving children the freedom to find out who they are on their own rather than sending them along a pathway they may not want to walk down. Whether or not you choose to raise your child gender-neutral many aspects of GNP have important benefits.

Gender Neutral Parenting of Your Foster Child: Teach tolerance and the importance of expression

When raised in a tolerant household, children are much more likely to be tolerant of others as they venture into the world. Tolerance is a characteristic that will help foster children succeed in school and, once they reach working age, in the workplace too. It can help them become more willing to attempt to understand the people and events in their lives before passing judgment – a trait that everyone could sincerely benefit from, especially those with histories of abuse and neglect. Learning to understand a person or problem before forming an opinion can help foster children manage and overcome harsh reactions and negative feelings.

Allowing foster children to find out where they exist on the gender spectrum rather than guiding them toward one position or another also increases the likelihood that they will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum rather than near the extremes of hyper-masculinity or hyper-femininity. While there is nothing wrong with hyper-masculinity or hyper-femininity if children arrive there on their own, it’s important to note that both of these gender roles come with tall expectations for future behavior that can be exhausting to keep up with. For instance, while it’s completely normal for outwardly masculine children and teens to have feminine emotions, it is not acceptable by society’s standards to express them. For children and teens – especially those with a history of abuse or neglect – suppressing emotions prevents emotional and social growth during a time when it’s most critical.

Gender Neutral Parenting of Your Foster Child: Give the freedom to be yourself

GNP parents say that GNP is about freeing our children from the behavioral expectations that come with polarized gender roles and the anguish that comes with not living up to them. They also say that it’s about encouraging our children and teaching them that their potential doesn’t have to fit within the status quo. Regardless of what parenting style you choose, all children, but especially foster, adoptive and kinship children, deserve to be spared the added pressure that comes with being filed into a category where they don’t feel at home.

Author: Thomas Castles, FAFS Communication and Development Associate

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