The SOF Team
During Pride Month your teens may have questions, here’s what you need to know
How to facilitate a positive, educational discussion on sexual orientation for children and teens with challenges.
Image Source: Cleveland Clinic
Sure, a young adult can know they want to date. But what if they’re unsure who they want to date and who they are attracted to sexually? If you notice that your child is asking questions about sexual orientation, and seems uncertain or embarrassed about not knowing, now is the time to sit down and discuss sexual orientation––what it means and how they can appropriately explore their sexuality.
How can you define sexual orientation? Educate yourself first. Sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and with whom you want a relationship. It is essential to understand that sexual orientation and expression are different from gender and gender identity. Gender identity describes how you identify your gender––male, female, nonbinary, etc. A solid understanding of the whole spectrum of gender identities – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, and queer – can help you answer questions from your kids. Understanding LGBTQ+ history will also help you have this educational conversation.
Image source: Ipsos
Starting the conversation. You don’t have to wait for them to approach you to begin the conversation. Approach them with the topic and ask if they’re willing to listen. Discuss openly with your child and avoid any figures of speech or slang. You can bring up the topic while eating dinner, watching the news, or maybe when you’re driving them home from school.
Ask your child open-ended questions to better gauge what they already know, think, and feel. Their responses will likely guide your discussion as you go along. For example, if they say they believe they are not attracted to anyone, you can explain to them what asexuality means. If they say they are attracted to anyone, regardless of gender, you can introduce pansexual identity as something for them to consider. They might also tell you a story about a classmate they are interested in, which might help you understand their feelings at that point in time.
Make sure that they know that they are free to make their own decisions on their sexual identity. You can do this by speaking positively and openly about all the diversity in our society – race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation – and that all these identities make us unique and beautiful people. You can also explain to them that it’s okay if they’re still unsure about their identity or trying to figure it out. It’s normal to be confused, especially when you are young.
Image source: Mary’s Center
Make sure your child or teen is comfortable having the conversation throughout the conversation. If they seem uninterested, uncomfortable, or say that they aren’t ready to discuss, take a step back. Approach the topic later when they seem more comfortable and prepared. Even if they expressed that they were open to the conversation, but they’re giving signals or using body language that shows they may feel uncomfortable, it might be best to wait for them to come to you. And if you remain open and optimistic about the subject, they likely will in the future. Always remember to stay accepting of them no matter what or who they choose to be.