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It is difficult and shocking, to say the least, for parents to find out that their tween or teen has been sending or receiving explicit photos (i.e. sexting). Sexting has become relatively common, according to Dr. Jeff Temple, a psychologist who has researched and published extensively in this area. Dr. Temple recommends talking to kids about sexting in the larger context of “the talk” that you have about sex, responsibility, digital citizenship, and consent. He gives the following advice:
— Remember that “the talk” is an ongoing conversation that should start early and emphasize healthy relationships and comprehensive sexual education.
— Become familiar and stay current with advances in technology.
— Download and learn popular sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
— For younger kids, “friend,” “follow,” or “like” their accounts.
— For older kids, where autonomy is critical to development, you may opt to give more privacy. Consider employing an “I won’t check until you give me a reason” approach.
— Talk to your kids about sexting. Be sure they know about the potential risks associated with sending nude pictures.
— Avoid scare tactics such as: “If you send a nude picture, you’ll never get into college or get a good job.” While this may happen, it is unlikely, and you may lose any credibility you had on the subject.
If you think or discover that your tween or teen has sexted:
— While certainly unsettling, this does not mean your child is deviant, depressed, or a “bad kid.”
— Sexting is associated with sexual behavior, including future sexual behavior. Use this as an opportunity to begin or continue “the talk,” with an emphasis on healthy relationships and comprehensive sex education that includes abstinence and safe sexual practices.
— Consider a formal monitoring system of his/her cell phone and social media accounts.
Given that you began your post with the statement that your son has already come out and you love him no matter what, it would seem that you have the foundation of a close relationship. This conversation can hopefully be an extension of that, as you educate your son about the risks of underage people sending explicit material, as it can be have both legal and social ramifications for him. Here is another article addressing this topic that may be helpful:
What a difficult time for your daughter, and for you as a mother. It is easy to understand why you would want to have a conversation with the other parent, who may not be aware of the effects her behavior is having on your daughter.
However, although it may feel as though confronting the other parent will help keep your daughter safe and healthy, the most effective way to help is to start with your daughter. Her comment about “doing something” could be her way of communicating that she is having thoughts of harming herself or someone else, or it could be a way of letting you know how upset she is. Either way, you cannot go wrong with verbalizing your love and support to your daughter and helping her understand that although the other parent may be struggling with acceptance, you are 100% on her side. If you are concerned that she may harm herself or someone else, reach out for help. This could be a call to her doctor or a therapist, or if you are unsure if you are able to keep her safe, calling 911 or taking her to an emergency room is a way to have her assessed immediately. Additionally, you will find a hotline and helpful information at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The most important thing, again, is to communicate to your daughter that no matter what happens, you are there to listen, love, and support her.
This is such a common situation, and very tricky! It is wonderful that you are thinking about how to ease your daughter’s experience of family member’s beliefs and comments. Some parents do distance from family members during the period of time when extended family is not yet aware, and so continues to express beliefs or ideas that are unintentionally hurtful. However, there are a couple things you can do to help your daughter feel loved and affirmed even in the face of these comments.
1. If your daughter has not yet chosen to come out, you can speak up and respond to these comments in ways that are supportive of LGBTQ people (without outing her). For more information about this, see Speaking Up: Independent Actions.
2. You can have the “people say stupid stuff” conversation with your daughter, as you mentioned. The benefit of speaking with her privately about what she may hear is to help her put the comments into perspective and avoid taking them personally. In other words, you can help her understand that these comments likely stem from an individual’s long-held, possibly unexamined ideas and and viewpoints, and may not have anything to do with feelings about her as an individual. It may also be helpful to reiterate that you do not agree with the statements and if she ever wants to discuss what she hears with you, you are open to doing that.
Most training programs include multicultural training, which aims to increase therapists’ comfort and competence with clients who are of different cultures, religions, sexual orientations, or socioeconomic backgrounds. However, the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers these resources to find a therapist who will be affirming and effective with issues and concerns facing LGBTQ kids and their families:
• The Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling offers a list of resources for LGBT individuals and works to educate counseling professionals on LGBT issues.
• The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists offers numerous resources for LGBT people who are experiencing mental health conditions, including a directory of LGBT-friendly therapists.
• The Center for American Progress offers a variety of resources, including a report called Why the Gay and Transgender Population Experiences Higher Rates of Substance Use.
• The GLBT National Help Center provides multiple resources and access to a hotline and a youth chat line.
The question you ask is important, as it is a step toward understanding how what you have experienced has shaped who you have become. Ultimately, you are the expert regarding who you are and why.
Generally speaking, there are many people who are sexually abused who are not gay, and many LGBTQ individuals who were not sexually abused. There has not been a study that proves that childhood abuse leads to a shift in sexual orientation. Some studies suggest that there is larger percentage of abuse survivors in the LGBT community. Despite this, we cannot make assumptions that experiencing abuse led to being gay or the opposite, that being gay led to being abused. Of course, if an LGBTQ child is rejected by family or isolated from peers due to being perceived as “different,” it could be that the child is at a greater risk of being targeted by abusers who seek vulnerable children.