How to Talk With Teenagers (13-18 years)
Sexuality and expressing oneself as a boy or girl are major parts of adolescent lives. In adolescence, your child’s friendships may become more intimate and involved. The opinions and actions of your child’s peers are also highly valued by your teen. Most teens want the freedom to express themselves and want privacy around their changing bodies and sexual activity. But they also want their parents to ask them about sex.
As teens begin dating, their sexual orientation often becomes apparent, as well as the orientation of their classmates and friends. This makes adolescence an important time in your child’s life for you to discuss anti-gay prejudice and to model healthy behavior. Whatever your own values and beliefs, it’s important to always discourage harassment or violence.
Your child or one of his friends may tell you, "I think I’m gay." Listening carefully helps teenagers feel safe to talk with you about their feelings. It took courage for him to begin this conversation, and it will take courage on your part to follow up. This can be a confusing and difficult time, and your child needs to hear again and again that you love him or her no matter what.
The teenage years can be a lonely time for gays and lesbians as they begin to deal with their emotions and sexual feelings. In social settings, like high school, they might feel like they are the "only ones." If there is a teen in your life who is gay, lesbian or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, let them know about three groups, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) www.glsen.org, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) www.pflag.org, and Human Rights Campaign, www.hrc.org.
The Internet has become an important way for gay teens to learn and to talk to other young people dealing with the same hopes and fears. In many cities, there are meetings for gay and lesbian teenagers. Supervised by an adult - often a counselor - these meetings provide opportunities for gay teens to meet each other and talk openly about their feelings in a safe environment. This can be a big help in reducing their isolation, which can be harmful to the mental health of gay youth.
"We never thought to have a conversation about sexual identity with our children when they were growing up. In retrospect, the absence of this type of communication probably conveyed the idea that homosexuality was taboo."
Rabbi David Horowitz,
father of two,
grandfather of one,
"We’re a very religious family heavily involved in our church groups. Christianity provides a platform for me to discuss difficult things with my children. It offers a model for all of us. If you’re a person of faith, you have to exhibit a certain openness and temperance… I’ll be honest that I have struggled about the issue of homosexuality and my faith. First and foremost, I believe that my religion teaches me that everyone deserves a core level of respect and consideration."
father of two,