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My Transgender Daughter, Nicki: A Story of Suffering and Survival

Sharon has a teenage daughter who is transgender. She describes how Nicki was born in a male body but felt from a very young age that she should have been a girl.

“When my child Nick was about two, I realised that he wasn’t playing with toys that I expected a boy to play with. He was interested in dolls and girly dressing-up clothes. At that age, it doesn’t really matter. You just think they’re trying lots of different things, so I never made a fuss about it.

My-transgender-daughter“But when he was four years old, Nick told me that God had made a mistake, and he should have been a girl.

“I asked my GP what I should do. He told me to wait and see, and that it might just be a phase and go away. But it didn’t. It got stronger.

“One day when Nick was six, we were in the car, and he asked me when he could have the operation to cut off his ‘willy’ and give him a ‘fanny’ (*vagina). His older cousin had told him about these things.

“I spoke to a friend who’s a psychiatrist. He said I should contact the Tavistock Clinic [now The Tavistock and Portman service for children and young people with gender identity issues].

“He also told me that the medical term is ‘gender dysphoria’. When I looked it up online, I found Mermaids, a charity that helps children with gender identity issues and their families.

“I also spoke to my GP again, who referred us to the local mental health unit. The person at the unit had worked at the Tavistock and knew about gender identity issues.

“He was brilliant. It was such a relief to talk to somebody who understood what was going on. I’d blamed myself, but he reassured me that it wasn’t my fault. We were then referred to the Tavistock Clinic.

“The team from the Tavistock came to Nick’s school and talked to the teachers. They helped the teachers to understand that Nick wasn’t being difficult, and that this may or may not be a phase. When a child is this young, you just don’t know.”

From Nick to Nicki

“Nicki desperately wanted to be female all the time. When she was 10, we feminised her name from Nick to Nicki at home. The following year, Nicki started secondary school as a girl.

“The school was very supportive, but because she moved up to secondary school with her peer group, everybody knew.

“In the first week, she was called a ‘tranny’ and a ‘man-beast’. She was spat on and attacked in the corridors. Within her first six months of being at that school, she took four overdoses.

“We then pulled her out of school, but after a few months she decided to go back.

“Each year, the bullying and isolation got worse, and Nicki started harming herself. At the beginning of year nine, I transferred her to another secondary school, but unfortunately the kids there found out.

“At that point, I withdrew her from school completely, and the education welfare office found her a place at a Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre, which is a unit for children who can’t cope with mainstream schooling for various health reasons.”

Going Through Puberty

“When Nicki started puberty, I wanted her to get the type of treatment that’s offered in the Netherlands, where puberty is blocked before major physical changes take place.

“I felt that if she was going to change her mind about being a girl, she would have done so by now.

“The Tavistock Clinic wouldn’t give her hormone blockers. [The Tavistock and Portman follows British guidelines, which at the time suggested not introducing hormone blockers until the latter stages of puberty. Since January 2011, the age at which hormonal treatment may be offered has been lowered from 16 to 12, under a research study that is being carried out by the Tavistock and Portman into the effects of hormone blockers earlier in puberty.]

“In the end, we went to a doctor in the US. I found him through the WPATH network (The World Professional Association for Transgender Health). Nicki was 13 when she started taking hormone blockers. It’s put her male puberty on hold, and given her time to think.

“If she hadn’t been given blockers, she would have suffered the psychological agony of going through male puberty. She told me she would have killed herself. Nowadays, you’d never guess that she was born male.

“If at any point Nicki were to tell me that she wasn’t sure that this was the right thing for her, we’d simply stop the injections and male puberty would go ahead.

“For Nicki, the next step is starting hormones and surgery as soon as she can.

“During the first few years of secondary school, I was constantly in fear for Nicki’s life. It was so distressing to watch her go through all of this.

“Now it’s a million times better. She’s a typical teenage girl, and it’s a blessing. She leaves a mess, she borrows my clothes, my make-up and my perfume. I never thought she’d reach this stage. She still has to face many more hurdles but she’s looking forward to adulthood.”

*The names in this article have been changed.

Where to Get Help

Sharon, who tells her story above, says that the most helpful thing was speaking to other families who’ve been through the same thing. The charity Mermaids provides family support for children and teenagers with gender identity issues, and can put you in touch with other parents with similar experiences.

Further Information

The story above reflects one mother’s experience. Because gender identity issues are complex and each case is different, Sharon’s story shouldn’t be seen as typical.

For more information on gender identity issues in children and young people, see: Teenagers and gender identity, and Worried about a child with gender identity issues?

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Child Health & Safety News 5/22: Child Drowning Myths vs. Reality

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Safety News: Senators Seek Improved In-Flight Child Safety – critical care gap you may not know about 

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed.  Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week:
Child Drowning myths vs. reality

How to Protect Kids From Online Predators

Troubling research about our kids’ lack of online smarts and predators’ new grooming techniques to lure them. Advice based on studies to keep kids safer online and parents and child givers better educated.

Studies show that predators are using more subtle and savvier ways to “befriend” kids including pretending to be another teen or child as a means of forming a relationship.  The purpose of this blog is not to scare you or have you overreact and pull the plug on your computer. The chance that your child will be befriended by an online predator is rare. But the news about two Virginia Tech students befriending and then luring a vulnerable 13 year old online only to allegedly murder her is so horrific and sad that it should make every parent watch their children closer and have a serious conversation about online safety.

But the Virginia Tech story is not isolated. Over the last few months a few parents have contacted me about their children who did encounter online predators. Two teen girls left with those men who groomed them online. Their parents are trying desperately to reunite with their daughters. Both families recognized the warnings I’m giving in this post – but only after I shared them. They urged me to post them. “If we’d only known,” they  told me.

So, not to scare you, just to educate you and hopefully save you from the heartbreak those parents are now enduring.

An Online Predator’s Profile

The term “Sex Predator” is a universal parent nightmare. The term alone sends shock-waves through every bone in our body.

University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center survey rejects the idea that the Internet is an especially perilous place for minors, but finds that the nature of online sex crimes against minors has actually changed little between 2000 and 2006. But we do need to stay educated.

We know online predators do exist, are a very real threat, and use the anonymity of the Internet to their advantage. Here is what you need to know to help your child.

A predator can be a he or a she, young or old, rich or poor, or any race or zip code. Law enforcement officers are noting a change most in the profile of the adult offenders. The proportion of younger adult offenders, aged 18-25, rose from 23 percent to 40 percent of arrests in cases with actual underage victims. The researchers hypothesize that the age shift may be a consequence of younger adults, who came of age online, and are now more likely to seek out victims on the Internet than elsewhere.

The Grooming Process

Regardless of age, predators have one commonality: they are master manipulators when it comes to kids.

Online predators rarely swoop in lure children or teens into quickly meeting at the local park and then abducting them. Instead, they build a relationship with the child online and slowly develop trust.

The actual “Grooming Process” can take several months in which the predator’s goal is to create a comfortable bond between himself and child. That bond is difficult to track but does give parents time if you are monitoring your child and your child’s online presence.

Research finds that one big problem is that kids can’t spot whether they are chatting online with an adult or a teen.

REALITY CHECK: 4 in 5 kids can’t tell age of person they are chatting with

In 2010 students from various ages took part in experiments designed to help researchers know how to create the right software to track pedophiles online.

The 350 children and teens in the study were from the Queen Elizabeth School, Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria. The funded project was part of the Economic and Social Research Council/Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.

The good news in the research (and there is some!): the computer software did “significantly better in correctly working out whether web chat was written by a child or an adult in 47 out of 50 cases–even when the adult was pretending to be a child.” But some findings should be a parenting wake-up call.

What Kids Don’t Know That Could Hurt Them

  • Four in five children can’t tell when they are talking to an adult posing as a child on the internet.
  • Four in five kids thought they were chatting to a teen when in fact it was an adult
  • Students as old as 17 struggle to tell the difference between an adult posing as a child or a real child “befriending” them online
  • Overall only 18% of children taking part in the experiment guessed correctly as to the age of the “predator”

6 Messages to Keep Kids Safer Online

While there’s no guarantee that we can always protect our kids, research is clear that the more educated we are about potential dangers the less likely our children will be victimized. Children who are unsupervised, more vulnerable, lack friends, bullied at school are also more vulnerable to an online predator.

Beware: authorities have growing concerns about popular mobile messaging apps like kik, that allow users to remain anonymous and appeal to a younger crowds. Know the apps that are on your child’s digital devices. 

You must be educated about online safety — and then you need to teach your child those lessons.  Just keep tips age appropriate and remember that it is always better to bridge such a topic in short ongoing chats instead of one big marathon lecture.

A  key point: teens say that “being educated” helps them be safer. You might want to review the research from Queen Elizabeth School with your teen.

Here are a few messages to weave into your critical parenting lessons.

1. “Never-ever-give personal data online”

Never give out personal information online must be your one “no budge” family rule. We taught our children that rule when they were toddlers (“Don’t give your name and phone number to strangers.”) Use the same rule with your older child or teen.

Detective T.J. Shaver of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas points out: “Predators often use multiple accounts to get information from children. In one account they get a name, on another, they will obtain school information and activities. On a third they will get the child to talk about their hobbies.” Withholding personal data makes it difficult for a predator to befriend a child.

2. “Do not post photos divulging identity and interests”

One way predators try to build “trusting” with a child is by trying to establish  that they “share” similar interests. So predators often search profiles and read emails and chat rooms to gather information about the child’s actual interests or passions and then convince the child that they have a lot in common: Tell your child to never post photos divulging such information. (Such as a kid wearing a hockey jersey. “Hey, I love to play hockey. Do you?” A picture of her with her favorite handbag. “I love Coach bags. What about you?” A t-shirt wearing bearing his school colors, name or mascot,)

3. “I will be supervising that computer”

Do NOT give free reign on that computer. Predators pick up on little cues that certain kids are not supervised – which means easier access for them. (For instance: the child is online for extended periods of time or online during hours when parents would be normally monitoring that computer).

4. “Be wary of any adult who wants to “keep a secret”

Predators want to keep their relationship with a child a secret from . their parent. A predator may also make a threat to the intended victim if “he tells.”

Teach the True Friend Rule: “Would a real friend ever threaten you or your family with harm?”

5. “NEVER ever meet anyone you meet online face to face”

Period. End of statement.

6. “You can tell me anything

Stress to your child messages such as: “I’m here for you. We can work things through. I love you.” In case there is a problem, your child needs to know he or she can come to you and that you are always there for them.

Clues A Child May Have “Online Troubles”

The reality is that your teen may not tell you that he or she is cyber-bullied or approached by a potential predator, but there are clues. The trick is to watch your child’s reactions in certain situations. Each situation is different but there are some warning signs.

Keep in mind that the signs may not indicate a predator relationship, but should be checked out. 

  • Does your child receive strange phone calls, mail or gifts from people you do not know? (A predator may send “gifts” to befriend a child).
  • Does your kid switch screen names quickly or cover up the screen when you walk by the computer?
  • Has your child set up other accounts recently to receive e-mail, texts, or Instant Messaging?
  • Does your child appear nervous when you (or he) goes to the computer?
  • Has your child withdrawn from normal activity and is spending more and more time on the computer?
  • Is your teen suddenly trying to use the computer during off times when you’re not there or in the room?
  • Does your child get jumpy or upset when a phone call, test, voice mail or IM comes in?
  • Is there porn on the computer? While your child may have put that up, do know that predators often send pornographic pictures via the IM session or e-mail or in plain envelope via the mail. (Check your mailbox!) Beware: A predator can also use that pornography that as a scare tactic to a child: “If you cut off our relationship, I’ll tell your parent that you have viewed pornographic pictures.”

Stay educated about the Internet. Know your computer. Know your child. Believe your child. And above all, stay in charge!

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

AMC is Screening Alien: Covenant Sensory Friendly Tomorrow

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Alien: Covenant, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Alien: Covenant tomorrow, Tuesday, May 23rd at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming Soon: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Sat, 5/27) and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (Sat, 6/10),


Editor’s note: Although Alien: Covenant has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Child Health & Safety News 5/15: Cotton Swabs Can Hurt Ears

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Safety News: Grandparents’ old-school parenting putting kids at risk, study finds

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we miss something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed.  Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week:
Cotton swabs are a danger to your child’s ears

Video: How to Introduce Your Child to Sleeping in a Bed

In this brief video, NHS Health Visitor, Sara, discusses how to approach moving your young child from a cot (*crib) to a bed and gives some tips for success.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • child-moving-to-a-bedThere are no hard-and-fast rules for when to move your baby from a cot (*crib) to a bed – do it when it feels comfortable for your child and for you
  • From 18 months, you might find that your child is too big for a cot or is trying to climb out – that’s the time to move them into a bed
  • For some children, moving from a cot to a bed is really exciting and they accept it really well
  • For other children, they might feel a bit stressed about the change – so you might need to choose a calm time in their life
    • Challenging times for moving from a cot to a bed can be if you’re moving house, if you’ve gone back to work or if your child is not feeling well
  • You may need to move your child to a bed if you have another baby on the way – if so, do it about six to eight weeks before your new baby is born, to help keep your child from being unsettled with too much change
  • Once sleeping in a bed, your child might get up in the night and wander around, so be sure to childproof their room
    • Put a stair gate across the door
    • Check their room for any electrical appliances or wires they could trip over, any small toys or objects they can get hold of or any cord blinds that they could get tangled in
    • You might also want to put barrier next to the bed or put cushions on the floor in case they fall out
  • If your child doesn’t like the bed initially and they want to protest, just stay calm, reassure them, give them a cuddle, but put them back in the bed
    • You might find that you have to do it a few times, but if you’re consistent, they’ll soon get used to being in the bed
  • When your child has slept in the bed, or had some naps in the bed, praise them because it can make a big difference to their confidence and they’ll feel much more willing to sleep in the bed if you praise them for what they’ve done

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.


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