Adolescence is one of the most complex stages in the sexual development of your kids, which is why family communication, understanding, and respect are essential.
Advisor Gloria Hurtado Castañeda
Psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva
Waiting for your children to reach adolescence to have this conversation is not an option. “Issues are no longer frozen until a certain age as they used to be. If as parents we do not know how to naturalize them or eliminate stigmas or stereotypes from the time they are young, they will not either, and later they will not want to engage in these kinds of discussions as a family,” states psychologist Gloria Hurtado Castañeda. “It is the same as saying: I am not going to talk to you about politics until you are 18 years old and can vote. But, why not if we are naturally political beings?” she adds.
Sexuality is the ability of a person to accept himself as a man or woman, explains the expert. It is in the attitude, the behavior, in the emotions. “It is a part of everything, even the decisions we make. For example, choosing a movie has to do with sexuality, and it is because of this naturalness that it should be brought up organically.” It is like talking about the climate or colors. Hurtado emphasizes that sexuality is not reduced to genitalia: “It is not the same. As parents, we must be very clear about this. Sexuality is related to the behavior, while genitalia, as the name suggests, is focused on the genitals. In the past, teaching young people how to correctly use contraceptives or how babies are born was called sexuality. And that was a mistake, that is genitality.”
On this basis, mothers and fathers should keep in mind that everything that happens at home influences their children’s sexuality, the way they carry themselves and relate with other people, the direct interactions they have with them, and even what they see and perceive individually. “When you have an argument in front of your children, you are giving them an example of sexuality. How you respond to stressful situations, how you shout, how you solve your problems. If I see my mother with a negative attitude towards my father, for example, as a daughter I am not going to want to seem like that and it is going to influence my sexuality as well.”
Comprehension, above all
The first step that mothers and fathers should take is understanding that humans are emotional and sensorial, especially during childhood, when they are experiencing many things for the first time. Another point they need to take on is learning, educating themselves. “Ignorance has never been a good counselor. There are parents that think they know about an issue, and, in reality, they are lost in what they are trying to say to their children,” explains the psychologist.
Children can perceive a lack of knowledge, which pushes them to look for answers elsewhere. Now, this is a global trend that has opened the way for other types of sexual education and ways to raise awareness of the issue among adolescents. One is so-called peer education, an approach where members of a community receive health advice from one of their peers.
In this case, adolescents turn to another teenager who was previously educated and has all the tools they need to guide their peers. One of them is North American activist and member of the Global Citizen organization, Thea Holcomb. The 17-year-old has become a trusted voice for young people in her school and community who have concerns about sex, sexuality, gender identity, and sexual preferences. “When they do not feel comfortable talking with their parents, they are going to seek answers in many places, with other people, and it is completely normal…Often, sexuality is not only in the hands of the parents, but in the hands of experts,” adds Gloria Hurtado.
Move with the times
Understanding what generational changes are and how they influence behavior is also key to overcoming prejudice. “It is important that parents understand that their children live in a quite different time than they did as teenagers. They cannot educate them the same way they were educated. You need to have the grace and conscience to give them the possibility to be children of their time,” emphasizes the specialist.
In order to achieve this, listening is essential, as well as being alert. Also, knowing your children is important, understanding how, even without words, they are talking about sexuality.
There is no reason to be shocked. “Adolescence is much deeper stage of sexual definition, especially today, when it is a mistake to believe that the characteristics of men and women are exclusive. It is wise to face change with openness and without resistance,” says Hurtado. “All you have to do is write down a list of characteristics of these genders. What you will see written there are paradigms, cultural stereotypes,” she adds.
New generations are talking about human beings, about masculine and feminine energies, and in the same way they are assuming their sexuality, even their gender and sexual preferences.
“It is positive thing for them to experiment with their bodies until they find what they like and how they feel the most comfortable. There are many who stay on the middle line and that is fine, it does not need to become a problem,” states psychologist Gloria Hurtado. If parents achieve this level of openness, awareness, and understanding about sexuality, they are also contributing to the formation of values in their children, such as respect, “because when a boy makes fun of a girl or does not treat her well, that shows implicit sexuality, which does not share or respect differences.”•
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How to address the issue to get a better result
- Listen. “Many situations related with gender have to do with mom and dad and their respective attitudes. This is a connection. It is good to analyze ourselves before speaking,” explains psychologist Gloria Hurtado.
- Understand. “Try not to be shocked. Sometimes it is not easy, however, empathy and respect in these cases should be the main focus of the conversation.”
- Support. “Whatever the topic of conversation, if your children need to talk about it, it is because they could be feeling insecure, anxious, or simply curious. Feeling supported during these processes is essential for their emotional development.”