Julie is a sixteen-year-old girl who is struggling to eat, sleep and function because of a deep shame that she has around romantic feelings for another girl. Her parents are conservative and religious. They believe that homosexuality is a sin. She is scared to tell them because she is already feeling ashamed she has these feelings. She feels like she is a bad person, and this has led to shame. Her shame is so internalized that she is starting to believe that she doesn’t deserve food and clothing.
Mike is a fourteen-year-old boy that is maturing faster than his classmates; he already has a beard. Because he is developing faster than others, he gets bullied. He feels like he is weird and different. He has strong feelings for a girl his age but is unable to talk to her because of his severe anxiety around his self-image and self-worth. He walks on eggshells around her and anytime she gets upset with him; he cuts himself. He also believes that he does not deserve food and clothes.
Being a teenager can be challenging. Developing an identity can feel scary. Teens often wonder, “what do other people think of me?”
Sometimes parents struggle to speak to their teenagers about sex because it is difficult for them to think about. Sexuality is not always binary and can be on a spectrum. Your teen needs to feel safe to discuss their emotions and sexuality with you, so that shame and low self-worth does not lead to painful psychological disorders.
Here are some things to consider when speaking to your teen about romance:
Embrace your fears
Explore your concerns around your teen’s sexuality. How are these fears affecting your relationship with your teen? Are your religious beliefs different from your teens, and how can you resolve this? Are you worried that if your teenager isn’t heterosexual, they will be bullied? For the most part, people do not choose their sexuality. If they did, the easiest choice would be heterosexual because it fits in with societal norms. Your teen might be afraid to discuss their sexuality with you because they do not want to disappoint you or be rejected by you.
Have open conversations without judgement
Your teen needs to know that they are loved unconditionally. Adding judgement or destructive criticism to the conversation might lead your teen to feel unsafe with you. If you find yourself judging your teen, take a step back and try to view the world through their perspective. You might need to accept that what you want for your teen and what your teen is going through might not match.
Make sure your teen is safe
It might be an awkward conversation to have, and your teen might be embarrassed, but your teen needs to know what it means to be sexually safe. Teaching them abstinence does not work. It is better to give them honest and realistic advice, such as the use of a condom because of diseases and pregnancy. Make sure that they are aware of sexual assault and consent.
Attune to your teen
Make sure that your teen is psychologically healthy by noticing if your teen is eating less, isolating themselves, self-harming or not sleeping well. If your teen is self-harming or is having suicidal thoughts, seek immediate help from a professional.
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