Hilary Sanders, Psychologist
Being a teen can be tough! We all remember what that was like, right? Your hormones are racing, your body is changing, you're figuring who you are, and who you want to be. You want to be unique yet at the same time fit in. Impress your friends, your parents, your teachers, and your "crush". Then throw in the everyday stress of school, home life, increasing demands, and societal pressure.
Now, imagine on top of all of this, you are also questioning your sexuality.
You've noticed you are not attracted to the opposite sex in the same way as your peers. Maybe you're not attracted to the opposite sex at all. Or both. Or neither. Given attraction to the opposite sex tends to be more common (emphasis on the word common here- do not mistake this to mean "more normal"), you might feel isolated, confused, ashamed, and fear rejection if you feel anything outside of this. Especially during adolescence, when social acceptance and a sense of belonging take priority.
The enduring or evolving pattern of one's sexual and romantic attraction to a particular sex is referred to as sexual orientation (or sexual identity). It is important to understand that commonly used categories of sexual orientation (heterosexual/straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual) do not rigidly apply to everyone. Sexual orientation exists on a spectrum, and is unique to the individual. Yes, it all sounds a bit complex, however the conversations you have with your teen don't need to be.
Many parents feel conflicted about what to do. What should I say? What if I say the wrong thing? How do I approach my teen, if at all?
How we approach sexuality can have a lasting impact on the emotional wellbeing of our kids, so it makes sense to reflect and think about it. And it’s never too soon, or too late, to begin the conversation.
Here are some key points to consider when talking with teens about sexual orientation:
- Switchboard (Victoria): http://www.switchboard.org.au/
- Q Life: https://qlife.org.au/
- Kids Helpline: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/
- Headspace: https://headspace.org.au/friends-and-family/