Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Part 1: Examining your own views
Sexuality is one of the topics on that dreaded “do we really have to talk about this” list that parent would love to avoid forever. In fact, some do. However, some don’t have that luxury because we can hardly ignore our children when they bring up the topic on their own. At least, we shouldn’t ignore them, especially when they are asking the questions.
Before you talk about sexuality with your child, you need to be secure within your own beliefs. Heterosexual; homosexual; bisexual; by choice or by genetics. You have to know where you stand before you can talk to your child in way that will prove productive for both of you. Take the time to determine what you believe. I am not talking about what society, the government or the church tells you that you should believe. I am talking about you - thinking for yourself, determining your own beliefs, knowing what you feel is true for you.
Once you are clear on your own personal beliefs, ask yourself the following questions:
• “If my son/daughter told me that they were ‘gay’, would I love them any less?”
• “Would I want my son/daughter to experience the hatred of prejudice?”
• “Am I going to promote prejudice or tolerance?”
• “Does being ‘gay’ change who a person truly is?”
After you answer these questions from the depths of your heart, it is time to re-evaluate your beliefs regarding sexuality. I know that you have already hashed this out in-depth; however, if you answered the above questions honestly, you will need to review and revise your beliefs one more time.
There are a lot of influences to consider when you are examining your own beliefs about sexuality. One of the most common and most effective influences is family history, or what I like to call “family hysterics”. Your family history, family beliefs, your upbringing have a profound effect on the way you see the world and how you react to the many aspects of life. For all of us, there will come a point in time where we have to make the decision to continue down the path of family history or begin to think for ourselves. There will always someone in the family that receives all the speculation, the sly glances and the stage whispers of family members wondering if there isn’t “something funny” about them. Doesn’t it make you wonder if there is really “something funny” about them or if no one would even notice if it weren’t for the “family hysterics”?
There are also what I like to call “geo-psychological” influences. The area of the country, state, or city can influence a person’s beliefs. [This, by the way, goes for all types of prejudice.] The West Coast has an obviously higher tolerance level for homosexuals than the Deep South. Does this mean that you should move to where you and/or child will be more accepted? No. What it means is that you have to stand strong in the face of adversity and be a part of the change/solution instead of part of the problem. Are you ready for that challenge?
Finally, the most “touchy” factor in determining views on sexuality is religious background. I was raised in a Lutheran church, converted to Episcopalian, spent many years in a Pentecostal church and finally had to come to my own terms with religion because I felt there was a lot of conflict within the church. I am not going to go into a lot of detail about varying religious beliefs. Honestly, I believe there are only two pieces of information that are pertinent. 1) We were all created by the same God who created us exactly as we are. 2) The closest humans can get to unconditional love is the love between parent and child. In short, we (parents) are the example. There is no institution on the face of this earth, no person, no concept, no “rule” to which we should adhere if it/they is/are going to tell us to abandon our children.
One of my favorite books on talking with teenagers is Rhett Godfrey’s The Teen Code. (See a review of this book under Book Reviews on the Single Parents main page.) Of discussing sexuality with your teen, Rhett writes: “The question you need to ask yourself is: Do you hate homosexuality more than you love your child? Some teenagers worry about it.” It is a valid question and may become the key to a successful conversation on sexuality with your child.
So are you comfortable with your own beliefs? Can you relay them to someone else without alienating that person? Are you able to support your beliefs with logical, sound information? Most importantly, can you talk to your child about your beliefs and theirs (because they might differ) and “agree to disagree”? If so, then you are ready to discuss sexuality with your child when the moment arises.
NOTE: I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. My articles are my own views, based upon personal research and experience. They are not designed to give “absolute advice”, but rather to share thoughts and ideas and to encourage parents, especially single parents, to think independently and logically about their own situations with their own children. In no way is any one piece of advice right for all people. Each person must take all aspects of their own situation into consideration before making any decisions.