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How Would You Handle THIS Situation? – On Explaining Gender to a Young Child

Editor’s Note:  When Family Honor teams present our “Leading & Loving” program at various parishes across the country, we discuss a variety of challenging scenarios and questions that parents may run across at some point with their children.  Because the culture we live in today runs very much against the grain of the Truth as taught by the Catholic Church, we parents will be forced to address many of these issues – often at times when we least expect it. Some of these are just innocent questions or situations that aren’t always easy to know how to react to, while others put our knowledge of the faith to the test.

Therefore, we offer you this second installment of a weekly series featuring one possible situation that may arise in your family.  (To view the first one from last week, click here.)  Following the description of the situation is a possible response parents could consider using.  These responses were developed through consultation with a variety of our Family Honor presenters – both male and female.  Our presenters are not counselors, mind you, though they are passionate about their vocation as parents and as Catholics. 

So, how would you handle THIS situation?

After being introduced to a newborn baby your four-year-old asks, “How can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl?”  Your response?  How DO you address gender in an accurate and age-appropriate way with a young child?

Here’s one possible answer:

I might respond by asking my five year old “How do you know if you are a girl (or a boy)?”  If my child’s answer involves genital body parts – then we are good.  I might just affirm that she/he is good at telling boys from girls.  If my child responds with something like “I have a boy haircut”, then I would affirm that could be one way to tell boys from girls, but the baby’s hair probably won’t tell us that.  I would then very simply explain that when you change a baby’s diaper, you see that God made boys with a penis and girls with a vagina.  I would then let the child ask additional questions if so desired and answer them as simply and accurately as I could.


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