At this age, preteens:
Feel self-conscious about physical changes and feel pressure to conform to cultural gender norms.
Are intolerant of cross-gender mannerisms and behaviours.
Are concerned about dating potential. Want to pick their own shows, and they’re often shows intended for older children.
Are more interested in peers than parents.
What you can do
Emphasise that worth and happiness don’t come from appearance (especially important for female characters) or from physical strength (especially important for male characters).
Watch a movie such as Arrival and remark on the lead character being a female professor. Or try Billy Elliot, about an Irish boy who wants to be a dancer despite his father’s objections. Ask: “How do these characters go against what society expects of them?”
Comment positively on healthy, supportive, and fulfilling cross-gender friendships and relationships. Try a movie such as Bridge to Terabithia (or read the book), which features an equal friendship between the boy and girl main characters. Discuss what makes them such good friends and what each one teaches the other.
Talk about how transgender characters in movies and on TV are often the target of bullying. Try a show such as I Am Jazz, about a transgender teen. Ask: “How did you feel when Jazz was bullied. If you knew her, would you defend her?”