The sexual orientation talk your teen really wants to have
By Kyleigh Klein, MA, LMHC
By Kyleigh Klein, MA, LMHC
Your home environment can be an open and affirming space for your teen’s identity — learn how to demonstrate support, curiosity, and allyship for the many possible ways your kid might identify.
In a world where straightness is often treated as the default, your family can affirm the beautiful and complex possibilities of attraction for your teen. You can create a culture at home that’s affirming of all sexual orientations.
Ask open and curious questions.
Show your teen you’re paying attention, especially to the important people in their life. Friends, peers, crushes, and romantic partners are a huge part of your teen’s social and emotional development. Being there with curiosity and empathy for the ups and downs is a key way to support your child.
Use gender-neutral language.
When you’re talking about your teen’s friends, peers, and crushes, try to use gender-neutral language. Instead of, “are there any boys you like in your class?” try, “is there anyone you like in your class?” This signals to your teen that you’re not making any assumptions about who they might be crushing on.
Show your support through daily choices.
You create an accepting environment in your home through the books you read, the media you watch, the events you attend, and more. Instead of one-off choices (“and today...it’s queer movie day!”) commit to working in queer-affirming representation naturally and consistently.
Respond to injustice.
When there’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the news, you can share your reactions and encourage your teen to share, too. It’s a great way to keep educating yourself, checking your biases, and showing your teen you care.
Try not to make “coming out” the focus.
Creating an environment that’s affirming of all sexual orientations isn’t all about your teen “coming out.” They may choose to share many stops along their sexual orientation journey, or they may never share directly. You can still show them support and love as they explore.
Think about the adults in your teen’s life.
Are there queer adults in your family or friend group who are a regular part of your teen’s life and serve as role models? Having trusted adults who identify as queer can help queerness feel like an accepted and valued part of your family’s world.
You don’t have to have all the answers. You’ll be learning more and more each day, and staying open as you learn about your child’s unique sexual orientation and needs for support. And if you get it wrong, you can apologize, take accountability, and practice showing up in a more helpful and affirming way.
As a family, you have the opportunity to create an environment that’s affirming of all sexual orientations. There are so many ways (both verbal and nonverbal) you can let your teen know that their unique sexual orientation will always be valid and welcome in your family.