04/16/2013 02:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

Our Child Plays With Barbie Dolls -- Is He Gay?

This question, believe it or not, is one I've heard so many times throughout my career from parents of male toddlers. They express concern over their son who likes to play with dolls, comb its hair, talk about how beautiful the doll is, and wonder whether their son's early interest in fashion might mean he is gay. Behind these concerns is fear. Fear of what life might be like for their son if indeed he is gay. Fear that maybe they are responsible for their son's sexual orientation. Fear that they might be looked at negatively or judged by others.

Playing with dolls is a perfectly healthy behavior for a male toddler. No different than a female playing with dolls, a part of normal development and entirely consistent with a toddler's vivid imagination and creativity. Further, there's no connection between this behavior and homosexuality, and certainly there's nothing to worry about if he were gay. Caring for dolls and adoring their beauty shows a child's tender side and this should be celebrated by parents, not feared. Chances are, he is imitating the parent's nurturing behaviors and showing responsibility by taking care of the doll.

Although society and culture attempt to dictate what's considered "normal" and what isn't for each gender, ultimately the traits most desired are those from both genders. Ideally, a well-balanced child is what most parents want. For example, a child who possesses gentleness, strength, assertiveness, and sensitivity. Play is one way in which these skills and traits are developed.

Parents should be supportive and encourage well-roundedness in their children and not show alarm
and be loving and supportive to their little tots.

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