Cross dressing is a common behavior among young children who are figuring out their gender identities. It is not until children are older that society begins to see cross dressing as an “abnormal” behavior. However, by explaining to your child what cross dressing is, you can help them understand how cross dressing is just another form of gender expression and something that they should not be ashamed of.
Method 1 of 3:Broaching the Subject
1Educate yourself on cross dressing behavior. Before you discuss cross dressing with your child, it is best to first educate yourself about the behavior. This is so you can report accurate information to your child, instead of misleading them.
Cross dressing can be defined as people who wear clothing and/or adornment, i.e., accessories and make up, that is traditionally associated with the opposite sex. In other words, it occurs when a male wears a dress or make up, or when a female wears a men's haircut or a suit. It is a form of gender expression. While people who cross dress may refer to themselves as transgender, others may still refer to themselves as their assigned biological sex, or refer to themselves as the opposite sex, particularly when they dress up.Trustworthy SourceGo Ask AliceMedical advice site with content written by health promotion specialists affiliated with Columbia UniversityGo to source
You can explain to your child,"Cross dressing occurs when a boy dresses in girl clothing, like dresses, and when a girl dresses in boy clothing, like suits or boy's tennis shoes."
Remember that what each gender wears can vary in other cultures. For example, men in Scotland wear kilts, which are similar to a skirt.
2Explain the difference between sex and gender. Explain to your child what"sex"is and what"gender"is and how they are different. Sex includes physical attributes like sex chromosomes and hormones, external genitalia, and internal reproductive organs. On the other hand, gender is the complex interplay between someone's biological sex and their internal sense of self as female, male, both, or neither (gender identity), as well as the presentation and behavior related to their perceptions (gender expression).
You can say, for example,"Your biological sex is determined by the girl parts or boy parts you are born with. However, gender is how a person feels on the inside, and how that is expressed on the outside."
3Introduce your child to cultural expectations. Explain how cultural expectations are the way society expects you to behave. Using the same color analogy, you can say,"If you are born blue, then society will want you to wear blue things, say blue things, and think blue things. If you are born pink, then society will want you to wear pink things, say pink things, and think pink things."
You can also explain,"Some blue people like to wear pink, while some pink people like to wear blue. This is referred to as going against society's expectations, and it is not wrong or bad."
You should also explain that cultural expectations can change. For example, women did not wear jeans until after World War II.
4Explain transgender identity. Transgender identity is a general term used to describe, or sometimes used by people to describe their gender non-conformity. In other words, it is used to describe individuals whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex at birth.
To help your child understand, you can explain,"Imagine someone who is born blue, but they feel pink on the inside. So, they decide to wear pink things, even though they were born blue."
5Answer your child's questions in simple terms. Your child may ask why a boy or girl dresses differently. Or, if you are out in public, your child might ask why a man is dressed as a woman. The answer is not a simple one because there are various reasons for why someone might cross dress. Reassure your child that it is OK to want to dress as the opposite sex, and that you shouldn't look down on or think differently about people who do.
You can simply say,"There are many reasons for why a girl will wear boy clothes or why a boy will wear girl clothes. Some people dress up for creative reasons, like when you dress up for Halloween, while other people dress up because they want to express how they feel on the inside. Remember that some people who are born blue feel pink on the inside and want to wear pink, while some people who are born pink feel blue on the inside and want to wear blue."
6Offer age-appropriate explanations. For young children, explain sex, gender, gender identity, and gender expression in simple terms. You can use simple analogies, like the color analogy, or a different type of analogy. However, older children will want a more in-depth explanation, and will want to know why.
If your older child asks why, explain gender identity, gender expression, and cisgender. For example,"Cisgender describes people whose sex assignment at birth matches their gender identity and expression. Gender identity and expression is someone's internal sense of self, and how they express it outwardly."
7Don't discourage your child from asking questions about sex and gender. Instead, explain to your child in age-appropriate explanations what they are and what the difference is. If you discourage them from asking questions, they will get the impression that it is shameful to talk about, and that they should repress their feelings. Sex and gender are a normal and a constant part of life. Therefore, it is normal for your children to wonder about it.
If they ask during an inconvenient time, you can always tell your child that you will talk with them later about it, and that you will try to answer all their questions.
8Explain cross dressing while shopping for clothes. Another great time to talk about and explain cross dressing is while shopping for clothes. You can start a discussion by saying, “Normally boys wear t-shirts and shorts, and girls wear dresses, but sometimes boys wear dresses too, and it is OK for girls to wear pants and t-shirts.” This way they can understand that, although society dictates what boys and girls should wear, it is OK to go against these rules.
Method 2 of 3:Understanding Your Child's Behavior
1Know that it's normal for children to experiment. It is important to know that before six years of age, children do not think of gender as permanent; they think that it is something that can be changed. Therefore, it is normal for your child to experiment with different kinds of dress, for example, for boys to wear dresses and for girls to wear suits.
It is also normal for children to want to play with toys that are normally reserved for the opposite gender.
Children may cross dress because they think the clothes and toys of the other gender are better.
They may also believe that their parents prefer children of the opposite sex, or they may not have a role model of their own sex to use as a model for their clothing or behavior.
2Be honest with yourself. Be open with yourself about how you feel about your child's gender non-conformity. Are your feelings positive, neutral, or negative, and why? If your feelings are negative, before discussing cross dressing with your child, speak with a support group. This will help you figure out a way to discuss your child's behavior without making them feel bad about their self.
You can tell your child,"No matter who you are or how you dress, as your mom, I will always love and support you.
Also ask them how they feel when they cross dress. Make sure they do not feel guilty about cross dressing. For example, say,"I want you to know that you shouldn't feel bad about dressing in boy's (or girl's) clothes.
It's important to realize that cross dressing does not make your child perverted, mentally ill, or homosexual.
3Let them lead the way. Let your child define who they are. Try not to label them or force your child to decide who they are. They will figure this out in time. It is your job to be supportive of them; whatever or whoever they are.
Offer to make cross dressing outfits for their toys, for example, a dress for Batman, or a suit for Barbie.
4Don't punish your child. Avoid punishing your child for cross dressing. Chances are they do not fully understand the meaning of their behavior. By punishing them, you are sending the message that you do not accept who they are. This can cause problems in the future if their cross dressing behavior continues on into adolescence. You want to be a good example of how to accept others who are different.
Don't make your child feel like they should overcome their behavior by saying,"You're old enough now to know that boys should not be wearing dresses. Why are you still wearing dresses and playing with dolls?"Or,"When are you going to grow out of this behavior?"Trustworthy SourceGo Ask AliceMedical advice site with content written by health promotion specialists affiliated with Columbia UniversityGo to source
5Ask questions to better understand your child's behavior. It is important to avoid judging or shaming your child for their behavior. Instead, try to gain a better understanding of why they are crossdressing. You can do this by asking your child some questions, such as:
“How does dressing like that make you feel on the inside? Powerful? Brave? Pretty?”
“Are you playing a pretend game? Who are you pretending to be?”
“What you are usually thinking about when you play dress up?”
Method 3 of 3:Explaining Your Cross-dressing Behavior to Your Child
1Create open communication with your child. It is easier to broach the subject of cross dressing if you have already developed a close relationship with your child. You can create this kind of relationship by having designated times where you speak freely about your feelings and worries.
For example, you can have frequent “sharing times” where you discuss your daily activities, how you felt about certain things, and what you should do about certain situations. Having an open line of communication will make it easier to explain your cross dressing behavior to your child.
2Present your behavior in context. Some parents find that presenting their cross dressing behavior in context is a great way to explain cross dressing to their children. An occasion like Halloween, or another costume occasion, is great way to explain cross dressing to your children.
After talking about dressing up for Halloween or other special occasions, you can explain to your child that their dad or mom likes to dress up, too. This strategy supports the idea that, rather than a guilty secret, cross dressing is an activity.
3Use empathy to help your child understand. By letting your child know how cross dressing makes you feel, they may have a better understanding of why you do it. Try telling your child what kinds of feelings you have when you cross dress.
You can try saying something like,"I feel happy when I'm able to dress this way."Or,"I'm still the same person, but dressing in this way makes me feel better."
4Don't let the discovery be a surprise discovery. Try not to let your children discover or stumble upon your cross dressing behavior by accident. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but being open about your behavior from an early age can prevent this from happening. Be as honest as possible with your child so that you can maintain a healthy relationship with them.