Therapist Hannah Russell in a therapy session with a teenager

Navigating Sex, Orientation, and Identity with Teens and Parents

Having a conversation with your teen

There is a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility that comes with being a teenager and parenting one. Many aspects of life are coming into play during this stage of development that neither of you have tackled together before. Some of the most influential and prominent for teens is sex, orientation, and identity.

As a teen, having conversations about what you are experiencing in relation to these topics with your parents may seem quite terrifying. So terrifying that you avoid the conversation all together. As a parent, being approached or approaching your teen on what they are experiencing may be as equally terrifying! I want you to know, these conversations can be had with guidance, help and support.

Navigating Sex, Orientation, and Identity with Teens and Parents

Having a conversation with your teen

Therapist Hannah Russell in a therapy session with a teenager

There is a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility that comes with being a teenager and parenting one. Many aspects of life are coming into play during this stage of development that neither of you have tackled together before. Some of the most influential and prominent for teens is sex, orientation, and identity.

As a teen, having conversations about what you are experiencing in relation to these topics with your parents may seem quite terrifying. So terrifying that you avoid the conversation all together. As a parent, being approached or approaching your teen on what they are experiencing may be as equally terrifying! I want you to know, these conversations can be had with guidance, help and support.

We’re here to help guide you through difficult conversations with your teenager

We are here to listen. We’re here to help guide you to make the best decision for yourself and your family. We’re here to sit with you in the hard stuff and help you navigate having difficult conversations with your teen.

Signs your Teen needs support:

Making the switch from childhood to the teenage years is a different experience for all individuals. For teens, this time period can be one of the most confusing and challenging, leading to feelings of anxiety or depression. Some of the signs to look for that your teen needs or wants support are below:

  • Intense or painful long-lasting moods
  • Panic attacks
  • Self-Injury
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Social withdrawal
  • Binging, purging, restricted eating
  • Lack of focus that is interfering with daily tasks
  • Extreme verbal or physical aggression
  • Running away
  • Substance abuse/selling drugs
  • Excessive risk taking
  • School refusal
  • Lack of connection to peers
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Isolation from family
  • Disruption in sleep schedule (over-sleeping/not sleeping at all)

Therapy for Parents and Teens

The one thing we know that is constant in life is change! Any type of change comes with an abundance of emotions. For teens, you are constantly changing. You are navigating emotions related to sex, relationships, your identity and orientation daily. This can be so overwhelming and sometimes you might feel like you just need to be heard. You want to be told that there isn’t something wrong with you, that it is okay to feel the emotions you are.

For parents, seeing your teen experience these moments of change may be incredibly difficult. You both may feel like you do not understand one another and there is no way you ever will. I’ve witnessed first-hand parents and teens who have this exact experience at the beginning of their journey in therapy. I’m here to tell you that it does not have to stay that way forever. I’ve seen how skills can help you both not only understand one another, you can begin to empathize, and embrace the constant change you are both experiencing together.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Teens and Parents

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has five specific skill sets that include the following: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Walking the Middle Path, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. A brief overview of the skills will help in understanding how they can benefit teens and parents in communicating with a teen who is experiencing changes and recognition of how they identify themselves, their sexuality, relationships, and orientation.

Five Skill Sets of DBT

Mindfulness is when you allow yourself to fully experience the moment you are in. You are aware of the thought, feeling, or body sensation you may be having. For example, a teen is sitting with their significant other and starts to feel nervous. When the teen is able to be mindful in that moment, the teen has more control of how they want to move forward in the situation.

As a parent, the teen comes home and shares the experience they had with their significant other and a parent may start to feel protective. By noticing you are having that feeling, you have more control in providing an effective response.

Distress Tolerance skills are the skills you turn to when you are in a hard situation or high emotional pain that won’t go away right away. For example, a parent and teen are having a conversation and the teen wanting to talk about having sex for the first time. The parent may become angry and start yelling at the teen. At this point, the teen may be having a high emotional reaction to the parent yelling. Rather than the teen turning to isolation, self-harm, or a substance, the distress tolerance skills are there to get the teen through that moment. Some of the skills include but are not limited to distraction, talking to a friend, or splashing cold water on their face. These skills are meant to get you through a difficult or emotionally intense feeling.

Walking the Middle path skills are used to find a way to balance and accept change in relationships. Validation is of the greatest importance. Validation means being able to accept or understand how another person sees a situation even if you do not agree. An example, a teen goes to their parents and shares that they feel attracted to the same sex. The parent may have a different view of same sex relationships than the teen. The parent being able to provide a space for the teen to share their experience even though they may not agree with it is validation. Validation is powerful because it tells the other person that you hear them, and you are with them.

Emotion Regulation skills help us control our emotions and take hold of them. Emotions are important for us to have because they tell us how we feel about the experiencing we are having. When teens and parents are communicating about sex, identity, or orientation emotions may be high. It’s incredibly beneficial for the teen and parent to be able to recognize the emotion they are having, regulate them, and to not ignore or avoid them.

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are helpful in keeping relationships and lessening conflict while maintaining self-respect. This skill set is incredibly helpful for teens and parents. Particularly the GIVE skills that encourage us to be gentle, interested, validating, and communicating in a gentle way. And the FAST skills that encourage us to be fair to yourself and the other person, to not over or under apologize, stick to your values, and be truthful.

Next Steps

Begin Therapy for your Teen in Ohio or Kentucky…

If you’re struggling to connect with your teenager, our team of relationship therapists is here to help you and your family navigate the next steps. To begin counseling in Cincinnati, OH, online therapy in Ohio, or online therapy in Kentucky, follow these steps:

Contact our Office

Contact hey emma to ask all your questions.

Schedule a Free Consult

Meet with a skilled Dialectical Behavior Therapist.

Start Your Therapy

Begin DBT and begin your journey towards healing.

Other Services offered at Hey Emma

More to check out…

The therapy team at Hey Emma specializes in offering sex therapy. But that’s not the only therapy service they provide at one of the offices or online across Ohio,and Kentucky. In addition to sex therapy, our therapists treat general mental health and relationship concerns. We treat many different sexual concerns including sexual pain and erectile dysfunction, and we offer anxiety treatment, depression treatment, trauma and PTSD treatment, EMDR, and relationship and couples therapy. We offer therapy in Cincinnati, OH, West Chester, OH, and Ft. Mitchell, KY. Contact our office to learn more about the many ways our team of skilled clinicians can help you thrive.