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Childhood, Gender Identity, and Mental Health: Insights from Dr. Elizabeth Henry

In my latest podcast episode, I had an enlightening conversation with a seasoned pediatrician and parent coach, Dr. Elizabeth Henry (also affectionately known as Dr. Liz). Our conversation explored the complexities of supporting LGBTQ youth and understanding the influence of media and societal issues on children's mental health.

As parents and caregivers, we often find ourselves grappling with how to approach sensitive topics with our children. This episode offers valuable insights and tools to help navigate these challenging conversations. We explored the intricacies of understanding a child's maturity level and tailoring discussions to be age-appropriate, as well as how parental emotions can shape children's interpretation of information.

The pervasiveness of media bias, technology, and the harsh reality of societal tragedies are realities our children cannot escape. Dr. Liz provided valuable insights into how these elements shape our children's perceptions. "They see over and over again young people being shot and teachers being shot while sitting in school," she said. "A huge part of the anxiety that a lot of these kids are feeling is a direct result of, even if they haven't had the experience themselves, there's a fear that this potentially could happen in their school."

We also discussed why parents must be aware of their children's media consumption and understand how to address the impact of school shootings on their mental health. "It's best, as you said Jen, to have these conversations with your child because it's better coming from you because you can control how you say it, you know what they need to hear and what things they can take at that age," Dr. Liz commented. "And it's better to come from you as a parent than the filtered information that's coming from their peers, which may or may not be accurate."

One of the main highlights of our discussion was the often misunderstood terrain of gender identity and the experiences of the LGBTQ community. I expressed my concerns regarding what I view as a trend of making assumptions about gender identity based on stereotypes. I think we have to be careful with assuming that just because a boy likes pink and likes playing dressup and Barbie dolls, doesn't mean he's a girl. Dr. Liz agreed that those things are a part of exploring. "There's a masculine and a feminine side to all of us," she said. "I think that it is important to let our kids explore all facets of play."

Dr. Liz underscored the unique attitudes of Gen Z towards labels and discussed the alarming rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth. We also discussed the controversial use of hormone blockers for transgender youth.

Supporting LGBTQ youth involves more than just understanding their experiences. It involves having open, honest conversations about gender identity, societal issues, and mental health. "And you may not agree, but have this conversation," Dr. Liz emphasized during our talk.

This episode is a critical resource for anyone seeking to understand how to have these challenging conversations. We encourage you to listen, learn, and engage in your own crucial conversations while listening to understand. Although Dr. Liz and I come from different perspectives on some of these critical issues, we both absolutely 100 percent agree that we all need to be able to have these conversations.

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