Teen Talk: dealing with sexual orientation

Filed under: Teens

I often have the feeling that the longer I stay at this mothering gig, the harder and more complicated it becomes. This is even more the case when it comes to parenting a teenager. When my teen, Loren, was a toddler, I worried about his physical safety. I worried that he might fall, he might get lost, he might choke. Now that he is nearly 14, I worry about so much more. The consequences of his actions are much more magnified. Time out is not a big deal, but a failing grade or a car accident can be. This is why I try to maintain a 100% honesty policy with my son. My hope is that if I model honest behavior to him he will reciprocate. The more truthful information I give him, the better his future decisions might be.

One of our recent talks, or series of talks, has involved homosexuality. Like so many teens Loren's age, he has picked up the habit of say, "Oh, Duh, that's so gay, " to just about anything that he finds distasteful. Or he and his friends have commented about so-and-so in their class as being gay. At first I hoped my son would outgrow this unfortunate show of closed-minded behavior, but when it continued, I decided to take action. My first effort involved me requiring that Loren use a different descriptive word when he felt the inclination to use the word gay in a negative manner. After that failed, I decided to put my foot down and install a no tolerance policy. I told him that if somebody in his class turns out to be gay, and statistically that is a likelihood, that it is not even an issue. I told him that if he is concerned about some body's choices impacting him negatively, that homosexuality is not going to be that issue. We discussed that having a peer who was a vegan would have more of an impact on his life than a friend with a different sexual orientation than he. A friend who is a vegan would not want to eat at Wendy's or many other places that my son likes to go. I then informed Loren that I will be proud of him whether he grows up to be a writer, a snowboarder or a surgeon. But if he grows up to be closed-minded? That would hurt deeply.

After our chat, Loren said he saw things in a different light. He told me that the vegan comparison helped him see the issue in a different more clearly. I have not heard him again talk about his peers sexual orientations. In recent weeks his descriptive vocabulary has grown to include words other than gay or queer. I suspect we will have to visit this issue again, but for the moment I believe we are making progress with our honesty.

Editor's note: I am in no way against anything about vegans. Nor am I saying that choosing to be a vegan is the same as having a sexual orientation. I simply chose a comparison that I thought a 13-year-old would easily be able to grasp.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.