DEAR HARRIETTE: I am the mother of a boy and a girl who are close in age. During holidays, I find that I receive pretty sexist toys for my children from my family. For example, "Josh" will receive cars and toy guns, while "Alaina" receives kitchen sets and dolls. Their Easter baskets were even gendered to make sure a girl does not receive blue candy!
How can I address this issue with my family? We are grateful, but I just don’t want my children to absorb these gender stereotypes. -- Pink Is for Everyone, Baltimore
DEAR PINK IS FOR EVERYONE: You have to speak up in order for your family members and friends to know where you stand on gifts. First, though, talk to your children to see what kinds of gifts they would appreciate most. Speak to them individually so that each child feels free to tell the truth. Then, when you communicate with loved ones, you can share your general concern about gender bias with the gifts they have been giving, and then add specifics about what your children have said they like.
You should also know that gender bias is often unconscious. Our culture has prescribed that boys and girls should be attracted to certain things and activities for generations. It may not be easy for your loved ones to change. What is most important is that you teach your children to feel comfortable expressing themselves as the unique human beings they are, even if their interests do not fall along traditional gender lines.