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How to have open and honest conversations about gender and sexuality with your tween

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read
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It’s 2023. Simply talking to your tween about the basic birds and the bees will not cut it any more. That’s because the world has evolved around us. And as your tween grows and develops, they will become more curious about sexuality and gender. Talking to your tween about these topics can be challenging as a parent.

Why should you talk to your tween about sexuality and gender?


Having these conversations can help your child feel accepted and supported. For tweenagers questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, feeling accepted and supported by their family can be incredibly important. By having open and honest conversations about these topics, you can create a safe and supportive environment where your tween can feel comfortable expressing themselves.

It can also assist in preventing negative outcomes. Studies have shown that LGBTQIA+ youth are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. However, having a supportive family can significantly reduce these risks.

One reason people overlook this is that these conversations will let your child form healthy relationships. When teenagers are unsure of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it can be difficult to have balanced relationships. You can help your child navigate these issues and form relationships based on mutual respect and understanding by having conversations about these topics.

As much as it saddens us to say it, LGBTQIA+ people still face discrimination and stigma in many areas of life. Open and honest conversations reduce stigma and discrimination, help reduce these negative attitudes, and encourage them to be accepting and inclusive of all people.

Ultimately, you need to help them make informed decisions about their own lives. By providing accurate and non-judgmental information, you can empower your tween to make choices that are right for them.

Terminology around LGBTQIA+


Before we dive straight into the conversations you need to have, let’s tackle the issue of language use around sexuality and identity. If you are going to be having these conversations with your child, knowing the correct terms and what they mean not only shows that you have the authority to talk about it but you also respect it.

LGBTQIA+ – stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and more (the + sign represents other identities not included in the acronym).

Sexual orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to other people.

Gender identity – is a person’s internal sense of their own gender, which may or may not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender – a person whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

Transgender – a person whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

Non-binary – a term used to describe people who do not identify as strictly male or female.

Genderqueer – a term used by some people who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female.

Queer – an umbrella term used to describe people who do not identify as heterosexual or who have a non-normative gender identity or expression.

Pansexual – a person who is attracted to all genders.

Asexual – a person who does not experience sexual attraction.

Ally – a person who supports and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, even if they do not identify as LGBTQ+ themselves.

Intersex – a term used to describe people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit typical male or female classifications.

Coming out – the process of revealing one’s LGBTQ+ identity to others.

Pronouns – the words used to refer to someone in the third person (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them).

Heteronormativity – the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the norm.

These are just a few of the many terms you should be familiar with when discussing sexuality and gender with your tween. Language is constantly evolving, and it’s okay to ask questions or do your own research to understand the terms and concepts better.


Discussing Sexual Identity


It can be challenging for some tweens to understand and accept their sexual identity. As a parent, you can help your tween understand that there is no one “normal” sexual identity and that everyone’s feelings are valid and should be respected.

One way to start a conversation about sexual identity is by asking your child what they think about it. This can help you understand where they are coming from and what they already know. You can also use this as an opportunity to correct any misconceptions they may have.

It’s also essential to let your tween know they can come to you with any questions or concerns about their sexual identity. You can support them by listening and helping them find resources if they need them.


Puberty and Dating


Think back; puberty can be a confusing and challenging time for tweens, especially those unsure of their sexual identity or gender. As a parent, you can help your child understand the changes their body is going through and how to take care of themselves during this time.

You can start by openly discussing the physical changes they are experiencing. You can also talk to them about how these changes impact their emotions and relationships.

When it comes to dating, setting clear boundaries and expectations is essential. Make sure your tween knows what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. You can also talk to them about healthy relationships and what to do if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

LGBTQIA+ issues


This one is simple from your side, let your tween know that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and identities, and that is okay.

You can start by explaining what LGBTQIA+ stands for and what each letter means. You can also talk about the challenges that LGBTQIA+ individuals face and how to be an ally.

Be supportive of your tween if they come out as LGBTQIA+. Let them know that you love and support them no matter what. You can also help them find support groups in your community.

Bisexual and transgender topics


Bisexual and transgender topics can be especially challenging to talk about, but it’s essential to have an open and honest conversation.

When discussing bisexuality, explain that it is possible to be attracted to both males and females. You can also discuss the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding sexuality, bisexuality and how to combat them.

For transgender topics, let them know that gender is not always binary and that some individuals may feel they were born in the wrong body. Be respectful and use the correct pronouns when talking about transgender individuals. If you’re unsure of which pronouns to use, it’s okay to ask. The more knowledge you have, the better.

Talking to your tween about sexuality and gender can be challenging. Still, just by being there, educating yourself and having an open conversation, you are already helping your child better understand themselves and the world around them. They need love and support during this time, which is precisely why you are perfect for this job!

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