Growing Up Transgender

At birth, we are all assigned a gender according to what appears on the outside, rather than what’s on the inside. What is most often confused is the difference between sex and gender: a person’s sex refers to their anatomy, whereas gender has more nebulous implications related to social roles and how one perceives themselves. As a child grows up, he (or she) may feel that their gender identity does not coincide with the sex they were assigned at birth. Parents may notice their child has an affinity toward clothing and toys associated with the opposite sex. Sometimes, children grow out of this, while for others, these feelings grow stronger and start to influence their personalities.

Developing a Gender Identity

Children who are consistent and persistent about identifying as the opposite gender once they became aware of the social differences between boys and girls will most likely become transgender as adults. It is not unusual for a child to start exhibiting transgender tendencies as they go through puberty. Teens who express that they no longer identify with the gender they were assigned should be supported through therapy or counseling to help navigate through this confusing time in their lives. Sometimes, with the help of a doctor, kids may decide to take hormones to block puberty during early adolescence, and later in adolescence take medications to transition to their preferred gender identity.

Transitions

Transitions can occur in two ways: with the help of hormones that mimic those of the opposite sex, and surgery. If a child took puberty-blocking hormones early on, surgeries like face feminization or breast removal are not necessary. Surgery is only done in adulthood, and a transgender person may choose not to undergo gender reassignment surgery at all.

A Parent’s Role

Your role as a parent of a transgender child should always be supportive. Understand that their gender orientation cannot be changed through your intervention once they have made the decision to be their true self. Various peer-reviewed studies show parenting and socialization do not have as influential an effect on a child’s gender identity as some may think. Gender is something inherent since birth. Validating their identity by calling them by a chosen name and providing them with clothing that reflects their gender identity are two ways to show your support. Make sure to provide them with the tools they need in cases of bullying, and if they begin to struggle with mental health issues. A transition can be a tumultuous time for the whole family, so make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. Be sure to speak with your child’s pediatrician about available services that can provide guidance on issues related to the LGBTQ+ community.

School Bus Etiquette

Most schools provide transportation for children depending on where the family resides. But often, parents are more comfortable driving their children to school, especially when their child has the “first day jitters.” Parents may not always be available to drive their children to school, pick them up, or even be there when they get dropped off at the bus stop, so it’s important to be aware of the basic rules and etiquette of riding the school bus.

Rules and Etiquette

There are several rules to follow on and off the school bus. Here’s a list of the basics:
1. When seated, be sure to always face forward and wear your seatbelt.
2. Remain seated while bus is moving.
3. If there are assigned seats, be sure to sit in them during each ride.
4. Keep hands and feet inside the bus and out of the aisle at all times.
5. No pushing or shoving when entering or exiting the bus.
6. Know the Danger Zone rule: if you can touch the bus, you’re too close to it.
7. Be aware of emergency exits on the bus.

What to do if there are problems on the bus

If your child has an altercation or a conflict on the school bus, be sure to get a full understanding of the situation and contact the appropriate authority. Keep in mind that the bus driver is neither qualified nor responsible to mediate any issues between children or their parents.

Grade Retention

A child getting left behind in school or having to repeat a grade is unfortunately more common than one may think. The good news is that research shows the percentage of children left behind has decreased from 3% to 1.5% from 2005 to 2010. This percentage continues to decrease due to the No Child Left Behind Act. But what happens when a child is held back, or retained, and doesn’t deserve to be? Or if a child goes on to the next grade level even when they aren’t ready?

Reasons for retainment

Children are usually retained in the same grade due to internal and external factors. Internal factors include struggles with progressing on skills or stagnating performance levels. External factors include learning disabilities, the learning environment, and trouble at home.

Internal factors can be helped by tutoring and summer school, while external factors can require more assistance. If a student has a learning disability, appropriate measures must be taken to provide suitable education for that child. If a child is having trouble at home and can’t seem to focus in the learning environment, then it’s important to meet with the student to determine his or her needs and help guide and motivate them.

Is it effective?

Repeating the same grade again doesn’t always help the student reach necessary achievements. In fact, sometimes it does the exact opposite. A study done in 2014 concluded that children who repeat a grade between kindergarten and fifth grade are 60% less likely to graduate high school than kids in similar circumstances. A child having to repeat a grade can also have a lasting effect on their confidence in the long-term.

When to Keep Your Child Home from School

It inevitably happens at some point in the year; your child wakes up with a sore throat and runny nose and pleads with you to stay home from school. What do you do? You don’t want to risk getting other children sick, but you also don’t want to let them get in a habit of staying home with every case of the sniffles. Here are guidelines to follow when determining whether or not to keep your child home from school:

Do they have a fever?

When in doubt, check your child’s fever. Whether they are complaining about a stomachache or a sore throat, a fever will help you identify how severe their illness may be. In general, your child should be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school in order to limit the spread of germs.

Will they be productive?

If it seems that your child would be completely unable to focus due to a cough or cold, they would likely be better staying home than attending school. When children are sick, they may be too busy blowing their noses to pay attention to what their teacher is saying. They can always catch up on schoolwork when they return.

Are they able to eat breakfast?

If your child is experiencing symptoms of a stomach bug, wait to see if they are able to keep breakfast down before sending them off to school. This will help you determine if their unsettled stomach is due to food poisoning or another condition. Take their temperature and bring your child to their pediatrician if symptoms persist.

Are they frequently asking to stay home?

Sometimes, children can start exhibiting school-avoidance behavior. School avoidance and school refusal occur when your child experiences anxiety at the idea of attending school. They may tell you they have a stomachache or headache, which can be physical manifestations of this behavior. Talk to them about why they do not want to attend school, and if appropriate, seek advice from school administrators, a mental health professional, or your child’s pediatrician.

When your child is home from school, make sure they are drinking enough water and getting rest. Encourage frequent hand washing both at home and once they are back in school. If your child is on antibiotics for an ear infection, strep, eye infection or other similar bacterial infections, make sure they have the medicine in their system for at least 24 hours before returning to school.

Communicating Effectively with School Personnel

If you ever find yourself wondering who the adults in the room are while your child is at school, you are not alone. Many teachers are accustomed to keeping in touch with parents about how their child is doing in school. Having an open line of communication with school personnel can put your mind at ease. However, unless you have specific concerns about how your child is doing academically and socially, it is not expected for teachers and parents to check in frequently.

Getting Started

In the beginning of the school year, parent-teacher conferences are a great way to get acquainted with your child’s teacher. Teachers are often quite busy during this time of the school year, but these appointments give you an allotted amount of time to get to know each other. Take advantage of this time to express concerns or ask questions. Establish what the best way to reach them is, as some teachers prefer email over phone calls due to time constraints in the classroom.

New Challenges

Getting accustomed to a new teacher’s style may be difficult at first, but it’s important to listen to both what the teacher is communicating to you and how your child feels. Rules and classroom procedures vary with every teacher, and sometimes children need more time to adjust. It is important to keep in mind that teachers have your child’s well being at the forefront of their concerns. Depending on your child’s age and level of maturity, it can be beneficial to encourage them to solve problems independently before you step in.