Parenting Advice for Gay and Lesbian Parents of Teens
by Laura Ramirez
Since teens are beginning to learn about and may also feel confused by their burgeoning sexuality, gay and lesbian parents (probably more than straight parents) need to think carefully, speak with sensitivity and prepare their kids for the issues they will face.
- For instance, children of gay and lesbian parents are often confused about their sexual orientation. If their parents are gay, will they be too? Does sexual orientation have a genetic basis of some kind? Such kids may be more prone to experiment, but may feel guilty about their choices. A good idea is to be open and honest with your teen and tell them about what this period of life was like for you. At the same time, be sensitive to your teen's body language and notice when you're sharing information that he or she feels uncomfortable hearing.
- As adolescents become more aware of sexuality in general, discrimination by peers can turn from teasing into cruelty. Since the teen years are typically about fitting in (read my parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting to learn how to raise your child to discover who he is and what his strengths are, rather than trying to squeeze himself into some predetermined shape) your lifestyle choices may affect your child when he is questioned about why he has two moms and dads.
At this point, your child may feel torn between his confusion and need for privacy and his loyalty and desire to defend his family. Help your child understand his conflicting feelings and let him know that it's okay if he can't or won't stand up for you. Tell him that you don't view this as a betrayal.
- Respect your child's need for privacy. Your teen may not want to hear your stories or talk about his sexuality. Find ways to connect with your teen and ask him questions that tease out his feelings and get him to open up naturally without feeling that you are prying. When our hands are busy with a shared task, we often reveal the intimacies of heart and mind.
- Socialize with gay and lesbian parents of other teens, so they can meet others who are live with similar circumstances. Having a supportive network of understanding peers and often just the knowledge that there are others out there who are "just like me" is enough to give your teen the courage and confidence to grapple with identity issues and embrace the road ahead.
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