How important is same-sex socialization for toddlers? When we put our two-year-old son in daycare, the provider had oversight of eight kids-seven girls and one boy. Since then the other boy's parents have made different arrangements, leaving our son as the only male child in the facility. As his dad, I'm worried that this situation may have a negative impact on the normal, healthy development of my son's gender identity. Is this something to be concerned about or not?
You need to understand that at age two the situation you've described isn't necessarily something to be concerned about. Your son has reached an interesting and somewhat ambiguous stage of development. Sexuality and sexual identification aren't prominent issues for him at this point in time, but he is starting to recognize and appreciate the differences between boys and girls. If anything, this awareness may actually be enhanced by spending lots of time in the presence of little girls his own age.
Naturally, it would be a good thing if he had more opportunities to play with other little boys as well, and we'd encourage you to keep looking for ways to fill this gap in his life. If this can't be done at the daycare center, perhaps you can arrange for him to get together with a male playmate or two during "off-hours." Meanwhile, you as his dad can and should play a key role in the process of showing him what healthy masculinity is all about. As a matter of fact, we'd suggest that the father-son relationship is the most crucial of all in this area of a boy's development. Ultimately, he becomes a man not because of the influence of his peers, but because he's had the exhilarating experience of being invited and welcomed into the world of manhood by his father. This, we'd suggest, is something that takes place primarily at home and within the context of the family.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department at your own convenience.