Holistic health includes whole person preventative care. What that means is considering how to prevent trauma by first considering how to honor the individual body, mind, and spirit.
As a parent we can do this with our children, we can provide holistic care by providing for our children's daily physical needs to ensure they are safe. We prevent the trauma of feeling unsafe by providing care based on their needs. That's one example and another could include things such as one sibling preferring their broccoli uncooked and with ranch dressing while the other sibling prefers broccoli cooked along with some carrots. Being aware of and mindful of preferences is one small way to create trust and build bonds with our children - that's preventative care!
I know you might be thinking "how can broccoli cause trauma?" and while I can think of some few unlikely instances the point is that most parents are aware of their children's small likes and dislikes such as this. We often know which blanket or toy can bring our children comfort, we instinctively know our children will enjoy specific experiences, people, or foods and try to avoid others. We learn our children's ques well enough that we can allow them and their feelings to lead in situations that are important to them. Even as infants they let us know with cries or giggles if they approve of an interaction! Therein lies the basis of Gender Expansive Parenting, allowing the child, the individual, the human to lead in situations relating to identifying their own gender instead of the parent making the choice for them.
Biologically “sex” refers to the anatomical and physiological characteristics of genitalia and
chromosome markers that indicate male, female, or intersex and is often assigned at birth. Gender on the other hand refers to a social construct, that can change from culture to culture, and is based on assumptions of the person based on their perceived sexual identity. This includes specific norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of the opposite sex, determined by said community. Note that biology holds space for those who do not fall into the binary with an "intersex" assignment at birth yet some societies have yet to incorporate that concept into common gender practices. Those communities that hold space for individuals that do not fit into a binary aim to ensure that all individuals are valued and included so they may thrive and contribute to the overall function and growth of community. While communities that do hold fast to the concept of a two gender binary ultimately exclude members who do not identify with the binary which can lead them to experience disparities in their overall wellbeing and life experiences.
How does holistic care show up in gender expansive parenting? Once the child is born the parent(s) can acknowledge their child's sexual identity while withholding any stereotypical gender assignments and instead allow the child to align with what feels natural and safe to them.
Parents can and should encourage their child to explore toys, clothing, ideas, and experiences "outside of the box", even if we aren't practicing gender expansive parenting. This holistic approach allows us as parents to be intentional with how we interact with each child, allowing the parent and child to learn each other in a way that avoids gender-based oppression, disparities or violence. Such liberties allow our children to grow and learn in safe environments and become more confident adults.
Practicing gender expansive parenting is not a new practice but it isn't exactly mainstream either so everyone's experience with this choice may look and feel differently. It's never to late to begin exploring more expansive practices, start where you are and have a conversation with your friends, family, or partner and an age appropriate conversation with your child (if they're old enough to talk back). Having open and honest conversations about how you want to parent is an important part of parenting but remember it doesn't have to be perfect you can make mistakes and have feelings. Try on new labels and pronouns, give yourself permission to play with gender while you allow your child to do the same and understands how it feels on you. Practice what works best for you and your child.
Interested in resources? Make sure to check out the following links for stories from families and articles from experts to support you on your journey. If you or someone you know is looking for 1:1 support reach out! A Discovery-Me consultation is always free to learn how a Full Spectrum Doula can support you during major transitions in life.
Sarah is a Holistic Wellness Educator and Doula that provides whole person wellness education along with Full Spectrum Doula support for all birthing peoples. This support includes providing thoughtful emotional, spiritual, and physical support before, during, and after pregnancy and pregnancy loss. If you or someone you love in interested in support let's connect! I look forward to connecting!