Support Gender Non-Conforming or Binary Young Children

Although families, educators, and other significant adults in young children’s lives have no control over children’s gender identities, they have extensive influence over children’s health and social-emotional wellbeing by communicating to them messages of being either respected and affirmed or shamed and rejected. Gender non-confirming or binary children have better mental health when adults support them in expressing their authentic gender identities (Include NYC).

Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Gender identity is “who you know yourself to be.” It is important to know that gender identity exists on a spectrum. A person’s gender identity can be masculine, feminine, or other.

Gender expression is how you express your gender to others, whether through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, the name you choose to go by, etc. Words to describe someone’s gender expression could be “masculine,” “feminine,” “androgynous,” etc. (Caring for Kids)

Supporting Non-Confirming or Binary Young Children

  • Assuming  your child’s gender expression is a form of rebellion or defiance can be harmful to them and to your relationship. Listen to them and ask questions about how they are feeling.
  • Focus on what brings your child joy and security. A child living with supportive parents and caregivers is likely to be a happier child. Don’t try to shame or punish your child for their gender expression or identity.
  • Connect with other families who have a gender-diverse child. This can help reduce any isolation you and your child might be experiencing. Look for an in-person or online support group.
  • Don’t belittle or ridicule your child’s gender expression or allow others in your family to do so. Don’t prevent your child from expressing gender in public or at family activities to avoid it making you or someone else uncomfortable.
  • Speak positively about your child to your child and to others. Show your admiration for your child’s identity and expression of it. (Mayo Clinic)

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

Request free printed materials from our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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