Playing dress-up

Some pointers on how to delicately handle the situation

Q: My five-year-old son likes to wear dresses and heels, even out of the house. Should I let him express himself this way? I don’t want him to get teased.

A: Both boys and girls love to play dress-up and they often dress as the opposite gender, especially during the preschool years. You’re right, boys who dress as girls often get teased and ostracized by their peers. You could explain to your son that this is why you will only let him dress up like a girl in playful contexts with trusted friends.

A child learns about gender roles by identifying with important people in his life, and will typically settle into behaviours and preferences that match his biological sex by about age six. If he says he wants to be a girl, avoids participation in stereotypically “boy” activities or expresses negative feelings about his sexual anatomy, you should consult a qualified children’s mental health practitioner.