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How To Talk To Your Elementary-Aged Child About a Friend or Family Member's Transition


We were recently asked about resources that would help a family talk with their young child about a relative’s transition. They had searched the internet and hadn’t found much guidance. They were looking for books to start the conversation, but they also needed a guide of talking points to help lead a conversation. In responding to them, we realized this could be helpful to so many of you. Whether your child’s classmate, uncle, or next door neighbor is transitioning, we hope that this blog post will help you begin a positive and inclusive dialogue in your family!

We will begin with some book recommendations, then follow with three of the most common scenarios.

- If the person transitioning is a family friend or relative

- If the person transitioning is a peer (and you found out from the peer’s parent, a letter, or your child’s teacher, maybe even before your child)

- If the person transitioning is a peer and your child is telling you directly without context (this is the first time you are hearing about it)

Book Recommendations

Here are some great books to buy to get the conversation started:


The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez is informative and inclusive. It is a great learning tool for both kids and parents. Beautiful watercolors surround text on each page, but it is not an overwhelming read. While this book could be read with children at almost any age, we would recommend it for children in first through fifth grade.


Who Are You? by Brook Pessin-Whedbee is a great all-encompassing book about gender. Appropriate for kids K-5, it comes with a pull-out gender wheel in the back of the book. While we love this book about gender identity and find that kids relate to it well, we do have to put in a disclaimer. Maya Gonzalez, the author of many children's books about gender including two in this list, has issued a statement saying that this book has copied many of her ideas without credit.


Red: A Crayon Story by Michael Hall is a heartwarming tale about a crayon that just can't seem to produce the color it is supposed to. With the help of some friends - and by avoiding the taunting of others - Red discovers that on the inside they are meant to color with a beautiful blue. Once they stop trying so hard to be someone they are not, they are free to create amazing things! This book would work for all Elementary-aged children, but we would recommend it especially for kids in grades K-3.


Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr is a must-have book for this topic of discussion.This book openly chronicles the transition of Hope in a way that children really relate to. This book brings up family support group, therapy and name changes in a very positive way. This book is great for kids in first through fifth grade.


Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton is a great introduction to transgender identities for very young children. Teddy is a stuffed animal. His owner has always presumed he is a boy, until Teddy gets the courage to stand up and say that he is actually a girl Teddy. We would recommend this book for children in Kindergarten and first grade.


I Am Jazz made the list because, of course, it is written by a member of the trans community! Jazz Jennings has a YouTube video where she reads this book aloud to children. We don't always include this book on lists because we feel it reinforces gender stereotypes when young Jazz chooses all things pink and often seen as "girly" to do, but we think this book fits in this collection because Jazz can provide a real-life example to your child. This book works well for Kindergarten and first graders.


Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead is a book about a trans child who uses "they/them" pronouns. This book is more advanced and requires more teaching. Luckily there are fantastic discussion sections in the back for adults and families. We recommend this book for children in second through fifth grade.


Backwards Day by S. Bear Bergman is another great addition to this collection. Once a year on Backwards Day, you can change your gender. One child looks forward to the day each year that they can become a boy. Then one year, they don't ever switch back. We recommend this book for children in second through fifth grade.


They, She, He, Me: Free to Be is also by Maya Gonzalez. This incredible little book is a great tool for talking about pronouns. While many adults fear children will have a hard time grasping the concept, this book is proof that children are ready to understand and use correct pronouns! This book is great for any age!

If the person transitioning is a family friend or relative…

  • Read books together (to break the ice and give you something to refer to).

  • Read Red: A Crayon Story.

  • Read Introducing Teddy.

  • Read Be Who You Are.

  • Tell them what you know, without making assumptions or saying too much.

  • “Your cousin Jessica is changing their name, just like Hope in the book (Be Who You Are). Now we will call Jessica Jake. When we talk about Jake, we will say “he”. Like this: ‘Your cousin Jake lives in Colorado. He loves to play Legos with you.’”

  • Answer their questions directly.

  • “Will we ever call her Jessica anymore?” -> “No, from now on we will call him Jake. Sometimes we might make a mistake. We might remind you - or you might remind us!”

  • “Why is Jake changing his name?” -> “Jake realized that he is a boy. He wanted everyone else to call him the name that matches how he feels on the inside. How he feels on the inside is called his gender.”

  • “What about Jake’s body, isn’t it a girl body?” -> “There are no “girl bodies” and “boy bodies”. Most boys have a penis, but some have a vulva. Most girls have a vulva, but some have a penis. Your body doesn’t tell what your gender is.”

  • Tell them when you don’t know.

  • “Why is Jake doing this now?” -> “I don’t know. The good news is that we don’t need to know, we just need to support him!”

  • “Has Jake always known about this?” -> “I’m not sure. If you feel comfortable, you could ask him. He may tell you he doesn’t want to talk about it.”

  • “Will he change his body to make it more like a boy?” -> “That is private and not something we will ask about. Everyone is the boss of their own body. He can be Jake even if he doesn’t do anything different with his body, but you may also start to notice some changes in how he looks or what he wears.”

  • Read more books together and keep the conversation open. Invite the friend or family member to join a conversation if you/they feel comfortable.

  • Remind them that this doesn’t change the person or their relationship with them.

  • Encourage them to be an upstander and help others who may forget/not understand.

If the person transitioning is your child’s peer (and you found out from the peer’s parent, a letter, or your child’s teacher, maybe even before your child)...

  • Read books together (to break the ice and give you something to refer to).

  • Read Red: A Crayon Story.

  • Read Introducing Teddy.

  • Read Be Who You Are.

  • Tell them what you know, without making assumptions or saying too much.

  • “Your friend Nico is changing their name, just like Hope in the book (Be Who You Are). Now we will call Nico Nina. When we talk about Nina, we will say “she”. Like this: ‘Your friend Nina loves to eat popcorn. Her favorite movie is the Trolls movie.’”

  • Answer their questions directly.

  • “Will we ever call him Nico anymore?” -> “No, from now on we will call him Nina. Sometimes we might make a mistake. We might remind you - or you might remind us!”

  • “Why is Nina changing her name?” -> “Nina realized that she is a girl. She wanted everyone else to call her the name that matches how she feels on the inside. How she feels on the inside is called her gender.”

  • “What about Nina’s body, isn’t it a boy body?” -> “There are no “girl bodies” and “boy bodies”. Most boys have a penis, but some have a vulva. Most girls have a vulva, but some have a penis. Your body doesn’t tell what your gender is.”

  • Tell them when you don’t know.

  • “Why is Nina doing this now?” -> “I don’t know. The good news is that we don’t need to know, we just need to support her!”

  • “Has Nina always known about this?” -> “I’m not sure. If you feel comfortable, you could ask her. She may tell you she doesn’t want to talk about it.”

  • “Will she change her body to make it more like a girl?” -> “That is private and not something we will ask about. Everyone is the boss of their own body. She can be Nina even if she doesn’t do anything different with her body, but you may also start to notice some changes in how she looks or what she wears.”

  • Read more books together and keep the conversation open.

  • Remind them that this doesn’t change the person or their relationship with them.

  • Encourage them to be an upstander and help others who may forget/not understand (especially if it’s a classmate).

If the person transitioning is your child’s peer and your child is telling you directly without context (this is the first time you are hearing about it)...

  • Listen, ask them to tell you what they know.

  • “Today Sam told the class that she is transgender. She said it means that when she was born the doctors and her parents thought she was a boy, but she isn’t.”

  • Or “Today on the playground Alex said that he is changing his name. He wants us to start saying Alexa and calling him ‘she’”.

  • Ask if they have any questions about it.

  • “What are you wondering?”

  • “What does that make you think?”

  • Provide straightforward answers without saying too much.

  • “Does that mean Sam is a boy or a girl?” -> “Sam is a girl. Your body doesn’t tell the whole story of who you are. You know your gender on the inside.”

  • “So does Sam have a penis or a vulva?” -> “That is private, and not our job to know about. Bodies grow in so many different ways. Sometimes doctors just make their best guess.”

  • “If Alex is now Alexa, does that mean she is transgender?” -> “That is up to Alexa to decide. Did she tell you?”

  • Tell them you will do some reading together!

  • “Let’s find some books to read that can help us learn more.”

  • Remind them that this doesn’t change the person or their relationship with them.

  • Encourage them to be an upstander and help others who may forget/not understand (especially if it’s a classmate).

  • Read more books together and keep the conversation open.

  • If your child tells you that it was a whole class discussion, know that adults are involved in making the transition go smoothly. If you have questions about how to talk about it, you can reach out to your child’s teacher.

  • If your child reported that a classmate said this in confidence and you have concerns, contact the family of the other child if you know them well and let them know what your child told you. If you don’t know them well, contact your child’s teacher so they are aware and can keep an eye out for bullying. Only reach out in this way if you think the child needs support. Your child’s teacher won’t be able to give you much information, but may be able to say that this is something that caring adults know about.


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