Creating Safe Spaces: An Introduction for Program Staff
To best attend to children and youth, it is helpful to know specific information about the different populations you serve. Given the prevalence of individuals who are gender-expansive or LGBTQ, it is likely that at some point you will work with children who are gender-expansive or LGBTQ. All children benefit when caregivers gain an understanding of the developmental and societal impacts on their experiences. This course is designed to help program staff better understand gender-expansive or LGBTQ children and youth. It prepares staff with the tools to best support all children with sensitivity to how gender and sexual orientation is discussed, portrayed and responded to within the program setting. This lesson introduces terminology and different approaches to responding to diverse populations, with a focus on gender-expansive and LGBTQ children and families.
Understanding Development for Gender-Expansive and Transgender Children and Youth
Developmental researchers have identified primary tasks, or expected experiences and skills, for certain developmental stages. The experiences of gender-expansive or transgender children may differ from what is usually expected or experienced by other children. Being aware of these experiences will help caregivers and staff better support children in their programs. This lesson will focus on how and when children begin to understand gender and some of the experiences of children who demonstrate more expansive gender expression. As sexual orientation (or to whom one is attracted) is not as central to children’s identity during the birth to 12 life stage, this lesson focuses more on gender expression and identity.
Supporting Gender-Expansive Children Creates Safe Spaces for All
Gender-neutral environments support all children and prevent distress to gender-expansive and LGBTQ children and youth. Gender-neutral, sometimes called gender-expansive, environments help all children feel safe to express their full selves. This lesson explains the key elements needed to create a gender-neutral environment. In addition, it introduces more information on factors that affect the development and growth of gender-expansive and transgender children.
Diversity within Families
Child care providers are responsible for supporting families in their primary role in caring for children. Understanding diverse family experiences and needs strengthens inclusion. Families who are struggling to understand their children’s experiences can be supported by caregivers and program staff.
Creative Programs that Support All Children
Providing materials, developing activities, and designing classroom or program spaces are important parts of your work as caregivers and staff. As already discussed in this course, finding ways to acknowledge, affirm and advocate for gender-expansive and LGBTQ children builds a welcoming program that supports all children and families. In this lesson, we present specific strategies for creating inclusive programs by addressing bullying and ensuring that the program environment, materials and activities represent diversity in terms of gender expression and sexual orientation. This lesson also focuses on inclusive language and sensitive responses.
Supporting More Inclusive Programs From an Administrative Perspective
This lesson focuses on the role of administrators, such as training and curriculum specialists and program managers, in creating safe spaces for gender-expansive and LGBTQ children and youth in their programs. It provides information on supporting and addressing staff members and families with diverse beliefs, coaching staff to respond sensitively to gender-expansive and LGBTQ children and their families, and how to ensure your program environment and procedures are gender-neutral.