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Should a parent seek therapy for a child who crosses the gender divide?

By LAURA STAMPLER, lstampler@MiamiHerald.com

kids Does your 4-year-old son dress up in his big sister's tiaras and princess costumes?

Does your 3-year-old daughter swap Barbies for Tonka Trucks?

With celebrity gossip sites buzzing over Angelina Jolie's comment that her 4-year-old daughter, Shiloh, wants to be a boy, and even children's books and popular television shows beginning to tackle the issue, transgender children have taken the media spotlight.

``It's not so much that younger children are exhibiting this behavior,'' said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida the state's largest rights group dedicated to equality to the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual and Transgender community. ``It is something that has already existed. There is just more research and visibility.''

But with lots of new information out there, parents are left sifting through some contradictions.

``I think parents are very worried and confused and there isn't clear-cut advice,'' says Ellen Perrin, chief of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. ``It's a complex issue.''

Click here to read the complete article.

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RESOURCES

• TranYouth Family Allies (www.imatyfa.org )

Transequlity.org is the website of the National Center for Transgender Equality, helpful for families seeking legal support.

Transfamily.org has online discussion groups for parents of transgender children of all ages.

• Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (pflag.org ) serves as peer support for parents as well.

• Safe Schools South Florida, (safeschoolssouthflorida.org ) a group of professional educators committed to training education professionals to recognize and intervene in harassment and bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students and the children of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents.

EqualityFlorida.org is a statewide education and advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and class.

SEEKING HELP

Should you be concerned about your child's atypical gender behavior?

If your child is socially well-adjusted and overall comfortable in his or skin, the general rule is to let things be. You should seek outside support if you, your child or your family are struggling to accept your child's gender expression.

The outreach program for gender-variant children and their families at Children's National Medical Center (childrensnational.org) in Washington, D.C., offers tips for choosing a therapist. Among them:

• Ask the therapist how she or her approaches gender variance. Make sure your therapist is fine with whatever gender outcome your child has.

• Ask about previous experience treating children with these issues.

• Make sure that guidance and support for you and your spouse or partner are major components of the therapy.

• Be concerned if the sessions only involve your child, don't address parenting questions or don't offer you ways to help your child and your family.

• Be concerned if the therapist seems to focus on the child's behavior as the problem rather than on helping the child cope with intolerance and prejudice.

BULLYING

Bullying is one of the biggest issues that transgender children face. Sit down with school administrators -- nurse, psychologist, principal and/or teachers -- to make sure everyone is aware of the circumstances.

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