Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.4 Health Education

2.4.1 Health Education for Children Gender and Body Awareness

The facility should prepare caregivers/teachers to appropriately discuss with the children anatomical facts related to gender identity and sex differences. When talking with parents/guardians, caregivers/teachers should take a general approach, while respecting cultural differences, acknowledging that all children engage in fantasy play, dressing up and trying out different roles (1). Caregivers/teachers should give children messages that contrast with stereotypes, such as men and women in non-traditional roles (2). Facilities should strive for developing common language and understanding among all the partners.
Open discussions among adults concerning childhood sexuality increase their comfort with the subject. The adults’ comfort may reduce children’s anxiety about sexuality (3,4).
Discussing sexuality and gender identity topics with young children is not always easy because the views of facility administrators, caregivers/teachers, parents/guardians, and community leaders on these topics may differ.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. Stein, M., K. Zuckert, S. Dixon. 2001. Sammy: Gender identity concerns in a six year old boy. Pediatrics 107:850-854.
  2. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 1997. Teaching young children to resist bias. Early Years are Learning Years Series. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  3. Couchenour, D., K. Chrisman. 2002. Healthy sexuality development: A guide for early childhood educators and families. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  4. Brill, S. A., R. Pepper. 2008. The transgender child: A handbook for families and professionals. San Francisco: Cleis.