Discussing Sexuality, Part 2: Talking to Your Child
On the other hand, your child must be as comfortable as possible in talking with you if this is going to be a productive conversation. They must be able to trust you and they must know that they have your acceptance regardless of what they reveal. Otherwise, you are not going to get the truth and/or you are quickly going to shut down this conversation and all the important ones of the future.
Let me assure you that by the time your child has reached middle school, they either know someone or know of someone who believes themselves to be either gay or bisexual. The first person pre-teens and teenagers confide in is never their parents - it is their friends. In addition, it is highly probable that your child has heard taunts and teasing about sexuality from the time they were in the later years of elementary school. It is a common occurrence. The hand-holding between best friends that was acceptable in first grade becomes taboo at an early age and little girls (and boys) quickly learn to squelch their displays of friendship.
What does this mean for you? First, it means that while this may be your first conversation about sexuality with your child, it is not their first conversation about sexuality. Second, it means that they have questions - be prepared for them. Finally, it means that they are going to want the truth. They learn at an early age (though sometimes you cannot tell it by the things they try to put past their parents!) that the truth is their mightiest weapon. They are going to want to hear it from you.
If you are going to be the one to start this conversation, I would suggest that you use a news story, TV program or movie, or finding from a recent study as a conversation starter. If there just isn’t such a commodity around when you need one, you might want to open with a hypothetical question such as “I was talking with a co-worker last week and she told me that one of the boys on her son’s football team said that her son was gay. Have you ever known of anyone to do anything like that? How do you feel about such a situation?” Keep asking open-ended questions and you can lead this conversation almost anywhere you want it to go, provided you really LISTEN to your child and let them know that you are not judging their opinions.
If your child approaches you with questions about sexuality, listening becomes an even more important key. (In my opinion, listening to your child with open, honest hearing can be more important than anything you have to say.) As you listen, look for the answers to questions such as, “What is the source of their questions?”, “How does my child seem to be feeling/thinking?”, and “What is the impact of this topic on my child’s life?”
As you delve into the conversation further, remember the following:
• Use an open mind and an open heart.
• Listen more than you speak.
• Conversation should be designed for the child to examine their own thoughts and the how’s and why’s behind their own beliefs.
• Parental guidance should include room for “agreeing to disagree.”
• Be supportive of your child!
It seems that I am spending a great deal of time emphasizing patience and understanding for your child, so I want to make sure that you know that you must also be patient with yourself. I know of no parent who will say to you, “I hope that my child is gay!” Parents know that if their child is gay, society will not make it easy on them. The parent will love them regardless, but society can be cruel and damaging. No parent wants that for his or her child. It is okay to have these feelings, but it doesn’t change reality. We are who we are – there is no choice involved.
Sexuality is one of those topics of conversation that usually cannot be covered in one sitting. If you sense that your child is becoming uncomfortable or you hit a spot where you are uncomfortable, admit to being human and take a break! It is okay to come back to the conversation later as long as you keep your word and do just that. What is important is that you have the conversation(s) and that you keep communication between you and your child flowing in a steady stream. The two of you will be able to handle it if you stick together.
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.
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