by Guest Blogger | Dec 31, 2022 | Guest Posts, Parenting
“My breasts were beautiful, now they’ve been incinerated for nothing. Thank you, modern medicine.” These were Chloe Cole’s words as she testified before the Florida Board of Medicine Legislative Committee in October 2022.
Chloe shared her experience of transitioning and de-transitioning. She said, “From a young age I was actually quite a very feminine girl, though I did somewhat model myself after my older brothers.” But she began to question her identity, and at 13, was given a regimen of puberty blockers and testosterone. Two years later, she had a double mastectomy. At 16, she said, “I came to realize I severely regretted my transition.”
The issues of gender dysphoria and transitioning teens are becoming more common. A recent study showed that nearly 1 in 5 people who identify as transgender in the United States is between the ages of 13-17. Anyone who has parented or been involved in the life of a teen knows the volatility that comes with this age. There are many theories as to why there has been an increase in teens experiencing gender confusion. One study suggested the “possibility of social influences and maladaptive coping mechanisms.” In other words, it is possible that teens are identifying as transgender because they see others doing it and/or are just having difficulty handling life’s challenges.
Dr. Samuel Veissière authored an article in Psychology Today addressing some of these concerns. He encouraged parents, educators, and clinicians to proceed with caution in dealing with the phenomenon of “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD), a term coined by Dr. Lisa Littman, a behavioral science professor at Boston University. The term rapid-onset should give pause when considering potentially harmful measures to change one’s gender, especially when considering the teenage mind. My 16-year-old son chose months before his birthday to have steak for his celebratory dinner, but the week of the event chose something else. A simple example that teens are often indecisive.
Because teens are going through such a tumultuous time, parental support is essential to helping them navigate these stormy waters. Sadly, parental rights are being taken away when counseling their children with gender dysphoria. Some courts are ruling in favor of children receiving transitioning therapy, despite parental disapproval for moral or religious reasons. Washington state recently passed legislation allowing children to receive gender transition care without parental permission.
One mother shared the pain she experienced watching her daughter go through “affirmative care,” the practice of clinicians following the child’s lead in transitioning. She pleaded for “common sense and compassion” to allow parents to advocate for their children’s health. Gender-affirming care is being touted as “life-saving“, and the “benefits outweigh the risks.” Preventing suicide is an outcome we can all agree on, but at what cost? What are the long-term effects of taking hormonal therapy or surgically altering the body? Is affirmative care addressing the root cause of the pain, anxiety, and depression these kids are feeling? Chloe Cole would tell you no.
As a mother of six children, I take my responsibility and right seriously to guide and nurture them, especially during challenging times in their lives. To instead, be left to watch a child undergo transformative therapy because a clinician feels it is in their best interest brings out the mama-bear-fight inside every mother. What can we do to protect our kids from becoming victims to those looking to override our role as advocates and protectors of our children? Let me offer three suggestions to empower parents in these roles:
- Be there for your kids! If “social influences and maladaptive coping mechanisms” are contributing to gender dysphoria, know who and what is influencing your family. Understand the pull of social media in teens’ lives. Find out what is stressing your kids. Communicate with them; ask questions. If they are struggling with anxiety or depression, help them find tools to cope, and if necessary, seek professional help.
- If seeking professional help, find clinicians that align with your values or religious beliefs and who will respect your role as a parent. Seek someone who recognizes the potential harm of gender-affirming care and will work with your family to find the root cause of the anguish your child is feeling.
- Fight to protect the rights of parents. Become educated about the political process. Develop relationships with your local and state officials. Elect those who will defend the family. Attend school board meetings and know the policies in your district that pertain to parental rights. In Idaho, parents are writing resolutions supporting the right as parents to be the primary stakeholders in their children’s education and upbringing. These resolutions are being presented to school boards and political parties, with the hope that state leaders will pass legislation defending this right.
Chloe Cole’s blunt testimony against gender-affirming care might be difficult for some to hear, but it is courageous voices like hers that can draw attention to help those with gender dysphoria get the mental health and support they need. And parents have the right to be by their child’s side guiding them through this process.
Mandy Baker is a Marriage and Family Studies major at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is a mother and grandmother, residing in Burley, Idaho. She serves as a school board trustee in her community.
by Guest Blogger | Aug 27, 2020 | Guest Posts, Parenting
No one likes to have “the talk” with their kids. You know, the sex talk. Conversations about sex can be uncomfortable for most people. But these types of conversations are critical. And talking about uncomfortable topics can be key to protecting your kids.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of four girls and one out of 13 boys in the U.S. experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. While we may not be able to protect our kids from every bad experience, we can teach them safety and prevention measures to minimize the risk of sexual assault. It starts with having uncomfortable, critical conversations.
I truly hope your child never has to experience sexual assault. I wish it wasn’t something we need to keep on our radar. But if we pretend like it doesn’t exist, how will that teach our children to protect themselves?
What is Sexual Assault?
According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” If you want to learn more about what can be classified as sexual assault click here.
Sexual predators can come from any demographic, race, or religion. There is no such thing as a stereotypical profile of a sexual predator. Regardless of your socioeconomic background, we all need to be on guard.
In my 26 years, I’ve learned that non-consensual sexual encounters are so much more common than we might realize. I grew up in a highly religious and middle-class home. My family was still affected. My parents did their absolute best to protect my siblings and I from predators. But predators can be in the most unexpected places. According to RAINN, “Most victims know their assailants: 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows, such as a neighbor, family member, or romantic partner.”
When I was very young, I was assaulted by a member of a family playgroup. Another time I was assaulted by someone who I thought was a friend at church. After having these experiences, I want to do everything in my power to protect my daughter and future children against these types of encounters.
Knowledge is power. Teaching our children how to take precautions empowers them to protect themselves from danger – especially when we are not around.
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips
The following are preventive measures that encourage sexual safety. While there is no sure way to avoid sexual assault, following these tips can cultivate open communication, help children identify wrong behavior, and create boundaries for future relationships.
Let’s teach our children to how to be safe:
1. Teach children the anatomical terms of their body.
This will let them know that talking about our bodies is not taboo and is a safe topic between the two of you. According to developmental psychologist Dr. Donna Matthews, when kids know and are comfortable using the standard terms for their private body parts, they will have one more protection against sexual abuse. Having open communication about our bodies and sexuality will encourage your child to turn to you when they are in need of advice or someone to trust and confide in.
2. Teach children to know how to identify appropriate versus inappropriate behavior.
Tell them if someone touches your “________” (any body part as discussed above) – that is unacceptable. If someone asks to see your “______” (any body part as discussed above) – that is wrong. Dr. Mary L. Pulido, executive director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, recommends sharing ideas of appropriate versus inappropriate touch. Some ideas of appropriate touch include (but are not limited to) giving a toddler a bath, changing a baby’s diaper, and getting vaccinations. An idea of inappropriate touch you may share is if someone puts their hand down your shirt or pants, that is wrong and unsafe.
3. Teach children to say (or yell), “NO!”, “STOP!”, or “STOP THAT!”
If anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, tell your child to put a stop to it immediately. No matter who the perpetrator is, it’s still wrong. If they don’t feel comfortable saying “stop” or “no,” they can always say “I have to leave” and RUN AWAY. The San Diego California Police Department encourages parents to teach their children how to react in the event of a sexual assault with the following, “If avoidance is not possible tell them to make a big scene by screaming, yelling, kicking, and resisting. Their safety is more important than being polite.”
4. Clearly define boundaries.
Set boundaries with friends and family. For example, when I had friends over as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to close bedroom doors. I was also not allowed to have sleepovers with anyone who was not family. Teach your child the boundaries of privacy even within your family. When and if they refuse to give affection to friends or family members when asked, support them in that and tell them they can say ”no thank you.” This can empower them to take ownership of their bodies, fosters body autonomy, and helps them know they are not obligated to touch someone when they are asked or pressured to.
5. Urge your child to be extremely selective with their friends.
This is especially important in their tweens, teens, and young adult years when you have less of an influence on their social circle. Encourage your child to date in group settings. Invite your child and their friends to hang out at your home so you can get to know their social circle. When I was a teen, I thought group dates were a way for my parents to control me and keep me from a fun make-out sesh. Little did I know that group dates are actually the safe route for unfamiliar company, which can prevent unwanted encounters. So my parents were looking out for my best interest, as good parents do.
6. Encourage your children to trust their instincts.
If something feels “off,” it usually is. According to the Specialized Alternatives for Families & Youth (SAFY) organization, trusting your instincts is a personal right. Teach them how to identify those feelings. This may not be a very scientific prevention, but how many times has trusting your instincts lead you in the wrong direction?
Talk with Your Kids Today
Assure your child that you are a safe adult to talk to and help them identify other trusted adults they can turn to when they are feeling confused, scared, or unsafe. Why include other adults? Because even if you have built trust with your child, there’s still a chance you may not be the first person they tell if they actually do get assaulted. According to Robin Sax, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes against children, “many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents,” so it’s important for them to have other trusted adults to turn to if they get assaulted (as devastating as that would be).
When should we start these conversations with our child? While each child is different, earlier is usually better. Jill Starishevsky, a child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor in New York City, encourages parents to start these conversations as early as age three. Keep in mind that young children and adolescents are a target for predators because they are more vulnerable at this stage. Start these critical conversations early so there’s more prevention than damage control.
Is there a way to spot a predator before anything happens? Unfortunately, no. It depends on the situation. There is literally so much we can worry about for our children as parents. However, these recommendations are some ways to give you peace of mind and provide tools to help your child protect themselves.
Thanks for surviving the realness. I encourage you to have these conversations ASAP, so you’re doing everything in your power to protect your precious little ones. You’ve got this!
Elise Blaser has a Bachelor of Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has a wonderful husband, Zach, and a beautiful one-year-old daughter, Violet. Before becoming a mom, she was a Program Developer for FIELDS, a nonprofit organization for Native American education and economic development, where she created and implemented a values-based, life-skills curriculum for underserved youth. She is passionate about health and wellness and sharing her life experiences to help uplift others.