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Estimated reading: 14 minutes
  • Creating a safer space for your children to experiment with their gender identity and gender expression can make a big difference in their life and their perception.
  • Educate yourself on the topics of gender equality, gender identity and gender expression so you can be there for your children during their process of discovering and growing.
  • It is important to create an environment where your children can freely question gender, gender roles/identity/expression.
  • Every child has a different style of communication. The sooner you identify it, the quicker you can be there to support them in the way that is most efficient for them.


Gender equality can be taught and achieved if there is an understanding on gender and sexual identities. In order to be able to talk about equality, it is necessary to know who is represented inside of the population that does not have the same privileges, opportunities of access as their counterparts. For this, understanding the process of understanding or discovering your gender and sex can help in understanding the multitude gender and sexual identities.


Due to the heteronormative society that we live in, it is really easy for children to get confused or to start feeling as if something would be wrong with them just because they cannot seem to fit in the binary social constructions. These constructions are present in everything surrounding us, starting with our family and friend´s circles, social media, movies, games, etc. For this reason, parents and educators play an important role in children’s discovery process.

Inside of the family environment, this role can be centred around two main topics: open communication and safety. Encouraging children to question things, to express them out loud and to stand up for what they believe in, combined with the creation of a safe space can play an important role in their development, both on a personal as well as on a societal level.

If you wish to create a gender-inclusive space for every child, a few aspects can help you make a difference:

  • Creating a safe space,
  • Creating a mistake-friendly environment,
  • Empowering them,
  • Teaching them how to communicate openly. Self-education

The first and most important step that you could take towards teaching your children about gender equality is to educate yourself. If you wish your children to question power structures, inequalities, and injustice and to discover their identity, it will help them to see you openly doing it too. One of the best ways to educate yourself on a topic, regardless of whether it is gender identity/sexuality/consent/relationships, etc., is to consume content from people who are going through those processes or have lived experience of concepts you want to learn about. Be mindful about your sources of information. Learning directly from activists, people inside of the LGBTQ+ community, resources created by people who are directly impacted by these inequalities (in this case, gender inequality) is a way to make sure that the content you are consuming, and spreading is actually anchored into reality rather than only in theories or discourses from unexperienced people and/or people who are not directly affected by this.

When researching gender inequality (and any other topic) it is important to get different perspectives on the topic in order to have a complete view rather than a restricted one. For example, when reading about gender identity try to read about personal experiences and practices in different parts of the world, different religions, and different political and social backgrounds so that you can understand how the same situation can be perceived differently once you change the cultural and/or racial context.

Research shows that most children do not openly talk about sex and sexuality to their parents. Establishing a climate of trust can shift this and one way of doing that is to show them that you understand the topics in question by educating yourself. Open communication

When talking to your children about gender equality, sex and sexuality, levelling with them is an important part of their understanding process. Try to adapt your speech and activities depending on their age and cultural background while still providing the information they need. If you don’t know the answer to a question they ask, try searching for it together. In this way, you can also teach your children how to choose trustworthy sources of information.

Try to keep in mind that talking about gender and sex is not sexualizing children. Before talking to your children about these topics, try working on your personal boundaries, triggers and believes to avoid projecting them onto your children by sharing thoughts and feelings linked to sex guilt. Safer spaces

To achieve space, that is 100% safe can seem very demanding. Still we can create a safe space, where everyone can feel like they can express themselves and share their ideas, wants, and needs without the fear of judgement. What you can do is create a safer space, where everyone can feel like they can express themselves and share their ideas, wants, and needs without the fear of judgement.

In the process of creating a safer space:

  • Try to be aware of privileges and power structures.
  • Take the environment of the children into account.
  • Create opportunities for them to participate in knowledge exchange. Use games/books/activities to give them tools to act.
  • Be empathetic and listen actively to what they have to say.
  • Give everyone the space and time they need. Some children take longer in feeling comfortable enough to actively participate in discussions.
  • Recognize and value the contribution of everyone inside of the group.

Creating a safer space is directly related to conflict resolution. When a conflict arises, remember that conflicts are emotionally driven. If someone is feeling strong emotions, provide them space to deal with those emotions and maybe offer your support during this process. Try to deescalate the situation by finding a shared vision and a solution to the problem. Be ready to take the role of a mediator. As a parent, when dealing with a conflict, try keeping in mind that the conflict can be both internal (individual’s conflict inside) or interpersonal (between 2 and more people/parties).

It is important to firstly acknowledge their emotions and show them that you are trying to understand their point of view. After that, you can try to help your children map their needs and shift their focus from the emotional to the rational/logical side.

Encourage them to express openly what they feel and what they need. Lead by example and express your own feelings and needs. Mistake friendly environment

Often children and youth are afraid to make mistakes and to be judged for them. Creating a mistake friendly environment is a good approach that encourages questioning and learning. There are no right or wrong answers and everyone is welcomed to contribute to the discussion. In order to create an environment like this, encourage children to question, to debate and to exchange ideas. In this way, they will feel supported to share more and more and will switch the focus to the knowledge itself rather than the person who is sharing it.

A few things that can help you create this kind of environment are:

  • Encourage children not to interrupt when somebody speaks (verbal reactions of approval/disapproval are included).
  • Encourage the use of body language if someone likes an idea. For example, shaking your palms means approving/supporting the idea.
  • When somebody makes a mistake, encourage them to apologise and to learn from it.
  • Using punishment as a solution doesn’t have a positive effect on the learning process of children. What you can do instead is to focus on the future actions rather than the moment the mistake was made.
  • Remind your children that we’re all humans and we’re bound to make mistakes, that’s how we learn. It is important that we learn from those mistakes instead of getting stuck in them. Communication – Love languages

Every person has a different way of expressing and feeling gratitude, love, and appreciation. The sooner you know yours and your child’s, the easier you can work on improving the communication process. Having a foundation in psychology, there are 5 different love languages that people use to give/receive love and appreciation. Those are: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and giving/receiving gifts (Chapman & Campbell, 2008).

These can be indicators in how your children perceive being appreciated and included and can facilitate the communication process with them. They can be easily noticed if you observe your children and the reactions they have to different interactions for a few days. Alternatively, you can take an online test to see where you stand.

  1. Words of affirmation are routed in verbal communication, meaning either verbal expressions (such as compliments, offering reassurance, positive comments etc.) or through written notes, letters, etc.
  2. Quality time is centred on togetherness and is expressed through spending time together with your loved ones. While the activities may not play such a significant role in the interaction, spending time together is prioritised and seen as a form of expressing/receiving love and/or appreciation. Building strong relationships is directly linked to meaningful connections that are formed through spending physical time together.
  3. Physical touch is a non-verbal expression of love and is centred in non-verbal communication, focusing on creating intimacy. It can be expressed through hugs, caressing, laying your head on someone’s shoulder or any other type of physical (consented) contact. Considering that touch is the first sense that we acquire when we develop in infancy and early childhood, some people perceive it as the ability to send and receive emotional signals from the people around them.
  4. Acts of service is a way to express your appreciation through the act of doing something for/towards the person you want to show love, appreciation or gratitude. It consists of little things that you know the person would like, such as cooking something for them, resolving one of their tasks of that day, bringing them something, cleaning something for them etc.
  5. Giving/receiving gifts is the most popular among the love languages and is another way to show your affection towards someone. While it is focused on the gift itself, this is a way to show the effort and time you put into preparing/finding the gift and also showing the person that you listened to their wishes and paid attention to them.

People usually feel loved and/or appreciated if they feel that they are cared for. Regardless of their age, people want to feel heard and supported and a good start for that is to find out which acts can offer them these feelings.


Let’s say one day your 14 years old child comes to you and tells you that they have made a new friend who is having multiple romantic (and consensual) relationships at the same time. Your child also mentions that they think monogamy might not be a good option for them. You, as a monogamous parent who doesn’t have much contact with non-normative practices or other relationship structures, get scared and start talking to them about all the risks that those practices involve, mentioning all of the negative aspects and how this can affect the way people perceive your child. You can see how their face is changing and how they are starting to doubt their friend and to get scared about everything negative that might happen.

In this context, instead of acting based on your emotions, what you can do is to actively listen to what your child has to say. If you don’t know much about the topic but you would like to support them and have a productive conversation, you can take a step back and tell them that you need a bit of time to research more about it before being able to talk to them about it. Try to avoid rejecting an idea from the beginning even if you don’t share the same point of view. Listen to the arguments your child has to say and remember that as long as they are making an informed decision, any option is valid.

Additionally, you can think if you’d judge the situation differently according to the gender of the friend mentioned above. Gender stereotypes can be present in our minds even when we don’t realise it. Actively reflecting about it helps the process of achieving gender equality.

5.1.4. BEST PRACTICES Non-violent communication (NVC)

NVC is a form of communication based on self-connection, honest expression, empathic presence, self-empathy, and the use of power (Rosenberg, 2012). When talking about the use of power we refer to the capacity and ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or of the events.

NVC can be personal (for inside conflicts or liberating ourselves from cultural conditioning/guilt/shame etc.), interpersonal (used to empathise with others) or societal (your relationship to society) (Rosenberg, 2012).

The 5 main elements of NVC, according to Rosenberg (2012) are:

  • Consciousness – Am I expressing myself in an open and honest way? Am I listening actively and valuing the needs of others? Am I self-connected?
  • Thought – Am I passing judgement or blame?
  • Language – Are my words neutral/free of criticism and blame?
  • Communication – Is my non-verbal communication expressing the same thing as my words?
  • Use of power – Am I trying to overpower this person to get what I want? Am I making a request or a demand in disguise?

When communicating with your children (or anyone else) try to think about these elements and the message you are trying to transmit. Think about the way you express yourself, your body language, the words you choose and if/how you use your power in the conversation. Active listening

A good practice is to actively listen to your children instead of listening to respond. Active listening means offering your full attention to the speaker by paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal communication (body language). Avoid interrupting, making assumptions or judging the speaker. When responding, you can show interest by repeating the message in your own words or asking questions to make sure you understand the message they wanted to transmit. Try to empathise with them, to place yourself into their shoes and see the situation from their perspective.

It is also helpful to ask them if they would like advice or if they just want to unload/somebody to listen to them. In this way, you avoid giving unnecessary opinions or advice and focus on what your child actually needs from you.


Chapman, G., & Campbell, R. (2008). The Five Love Languages of Children. In Google Books. Moody Publishers. Retrieved from https://books.google.es/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ORBIZ94Uu7YC&oi=fnd&pg=PA5&dq=teaching+love+languages+to+kids&ots=Dqo5yDhcfB&sig=HbaF-MdtPGMx6WkjmeNGL7v5UO8&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=teaching%20love%20languages%20to%20kids&f=false.

‌Rosenberg, M. (2012). Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skilfully in Every Situation. In Google Books. Retrieved from https://books.google.es/books?hl=en&lr=&id=U4N5CwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=non+violent+communication+tools&ots=7dhC4nssU3&sig=2XBP6DwaspbQ3ttPk-ROXDVunuQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.


Mehta, A. (2019). Teaching Gender, Race, Sexuality: Reflections on Feminist Pedagogy. Kohljournal.press..Retrieved from https://kohljournal.press/reflections-feminist-pedagogy.

SCI Italy (2022). The Gender Effect. Retrieved from 2022_toolkit_booklet_thegendereffect-italy.pdf (sci.ngo).

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