How Can Parents Help Their Teens Explore their Sexuality?

Most of the children start discovering their sexuality in their teenage years. Sexuality refers to feelings and attractions that teens experience on different levels. It’s not only related to who they have sex with.

While discovering one’s sexual identity is a common part of teenage life, it can often lead them to confusion. This is where parents can help them come out with their sexual identity openly.

Parents should know about the concepts of sexuality that their teen might be dealing with. They should also know how to support their children during this time and how to identify any signs that they may need their support.

Terms Used to Describe Sexuality

Quite often, terms like gay, lesbian and bisexual are used by people while describing one’s sexual identity. However, there are many other terms that people also like to use. It is important for parents to have information about these terms so next time when they hear it they can immediately know what is being talked about.

Following are some of the terms for describing one’s sexuality:

Heterosexual: A person who is attracted to the 'opposite' sex or gender.

Lesbian/Gay: A person who is fascinated with mostly or only people of the same sex or gender.

Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both men and women.

Pansexual: A person who is attracted to any sex, gender, or sexual identity. This is not similar to bisexuality as it accepts gender on a spectrum, rather than two 'opposite' genders.

Queer: Some parents may think of ‘queer’ as an insult but it has been largely reclaimed by the community. It’s often used by people who don’t identify with terms like gay or bisexual but who identify as non-heterosexual. It can also be used as a general term to describe people who are LGBTQI.

Asexual: A person who is not really sexually attracted to any sex or gender.

This is What Parents Should Look Out For

It can be quite a challenging time for teenagers when they have to work out their identity and worry about where they fit in. Their journey towards self-discovery may cause them a lot of distress and anxiety, bringing them a sense of isolation.

Apart from that, bullying is also quite common for people who are attracted to the same sex. Around 80% of people have admitted that they have experienced bullying, prejudice, and discrimination at some point in their life. Parents can definitely help their teen by identifying the signs that something is up with them. The signs may include the following:

  • When your teen is being withdrawn from others or is losing interest in their usual activities
  • When you witness some changes in their behavior and find them moody and irritable
  • When your teen constantly feels tired or experience changes in their usual sleeping patterns
  • When your teen appears anxious or restless or expresses feelings of hopelessness or worry
  • When you notice your teens having physical symptoms such as headache or stomach ache

Coming out with their own sexual identity may not always be tough. In fact, it can also be a liberating and positive experience for your teenager. It is true that many teens experience homophobia while discovering their sexuality, they may also get a sense of belonging and an opportunity to connect with a like-minded community.

Parents may notice their teenager doing the following things while discovering their sexuality:

  • Some teens may quit activities they used to do because they thought they were compelled to do them.
  • They try new things that parents didn’t know they would be interested in.
  • They make new friends and sometimes tend to move away from their existing friends.

The best way to help your teens explore their sexuality is to make them feel comfortable about the topic so they can openly express their thoughts and desires with you. A child should come up to their parents as soon as they find something peculiar about their interests.

An open and honest conversation between a teen and their parents can help the child accept and recognize their own sexual identity.

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