Your Role as a Parent
You want to give your child the guidance and knowledge they need to become responsible, healthy and happy adults. They should know that you love and accept them for who they are. Teaching your child about sexual health and sexuality is part of your role as a parent. You’re already teaching your child many things about sexuality and have been since birth. They learn from:
- the way others physically touch them
- the way their bodies feel to them
- what your family believes is okay and not okay to do and say
- the words that family members use (and don’t use) to refer to body parts
- watching the relationships around them
- seeing gender roles
They also pick up a lot from outside the family whenever they watch television, movies, listen to music and talk with friends.
Sometimes parents feel unsure or uncomfortable talking about sexual health and sexuality because:
- they aren’t comfortable talking about reproductive body parts and what they do
- sex wasn’t talked about when they were growing up
- they wonder if talking about sexuality will give the okay for their child to experiment
- they aren’t sure what their child needs to know and at what age they need to know it
It’s okay to feel uncomfortable talking about sexual health. You will gain more confidence the more you discuss these topics! Unlike other topics, the words related to sexuality and sex are not words you likely use every day. They may feel a bit strange to say out loud. You could practice them when you’re alone until you feel more comfortable. You could also:
- Learn about the topic you want to discuss to feel confident in your knowledge. This website is a good place to start. You’ll find other websites in Additional Resources.
- Ask your friends or partner to help you practice talking about the topic.
- Start with mini talks. For many kids, giving information in frequent mini talks works better than a longer talk. If you don’t feel like you need to tell your child everything in one talk, it will likely help lower your anxiety.
- Keep trying. Kids may also be embarrassed to talk at first. Over time, it will start to feel more normal and less embarrassing.
- Make it conversational. Two-way conversations may help your child be more willing to ask you questions. You can ask them about their thoughts on a topic, or if there’s something that they’re curious about. You can take advantage of teachable moments.
In talking about sexual health with your child, you can:
- answer their questions honestly—tell your child what they want to know using words they can understand
- give correct information—studies show that young people tend to get most of their information (or misinformation) about sexual health from friends
- start conversations—some kids never ask about sexual health, so it doesn’t work to wait for them to bring it up
- share your beliefs, concerns and values—your child needs to know what’s important to you
- help your child make good decisions and stand by their decisions
Coming Out: Supporting Your Child
Your role as a parent in supporting your LGBTQ2S+ child or teen can greatly impact their well-being. When they come out to you, it may not be a surprise at all, or it may be a complete surprise.
When your child or teen comes out to you:
- It may be helpful to take a moment (but only a moment) and a deep breath before answering.
- Thank them for telling you and assure them that you love them.
- Lead with love in everything you say, so they’ll remember feeling loved when they recall their experience.
- Recognize their bravery. It can be very scary to come out so recognize their strength for doing it.
After they come out to you, it may take time to adjust, and that’s okay. Just ensure your child or teen knows you’re trying to be what they need you to be. You can support your child or teen by:
- using the name and pronouns your child or teen would like you to use.
- apologizing to your child or teen if you make a mistake, and committing to doing better.
- following their lead. Let them be the one to come out to family and friends. You can help if they agree, but it needs to be their choice.
- respecting their choice if they want only one parent to know, as hard as it may be. In time, they may come out to their other parent(s) and caregivers.
- helping connect them to support if your child or teen would benefit from it. This could include:
- counselling with someone experienced in supporting LGBTQ2S+ individuals
- making sure they know about their school’s GSA
- helping them find a safe online community, especially if you’re in a small town or rural community
- signing them up for an LGBTQ2S+ camp (see Additional Resources)
Be an ally by:
- taking part in Pride events or consider planning events if there are none in your community.
- donating LGBTQ2S+ themed books to school and community libraries.
- taking a stand against homo, bi or transphobic bullying in the school and community.
- taking action against policies or practices in your community that do not support LGBTQ2S+ people.
You can help your kids grow up to be sexually healthy, secure adults. It all comes down to love, support and giving them good information before they need it.