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Talking to your kids about relationships and sexual health is no longer just a simple chat about the birds and the bees. It’s important that the information you share with your children is medically accurate, free of judgement and covers a wide range of age-appropriate topics, some of which you may find difficult to discuss.
These topics include consent, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), contraception, and developing healthy attitudes about personal development and sexuality. Your conversation should also include information about sexual and gender identity and expression.
According to a 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, more than 3% of students identify as gay and almost 12% identify as bisexual. A 2022 Williams Institute study reports that among American youth ages 13 to 17, 1.4% — about 300,000 — identify as transgender. They are all part of the community known as LGBTQ+, an abbreviation that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.
Others included within this group, and represented by the plus sign in the abbreviation, include people who identify as other than heterosexual or cisgender (people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth). This includes intersex and nonbinary — also called genderqueer — people; a spectrum of gender identities not exclusively masculine or feminine; and those who represent a broad spectrum of sexual orientations, such as asexual and pansexual.
Why inclusivity and acceptance matters
While many LGBTQ+ youth report they are happy, the group as a whole are more likely than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to be bullied or homeless. They are also at greater risk for attempting suicide, alcohol abuse and participating in risky sexual behaviors.
This is why it is important you understand that the way you respond to your LGBTQ+ children can have a tremendous impact on your kids’ mental and physical health. Your support plays a crucial role in your LGBTQ+ child’s ability to cope with challenges and thrive.
Dr. Andrew Brown, a board-certified family medicine doctor affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group, knows that talking to your children about LGBTQ+ issues can be challenging or uncomfortable for some parents. However, he believes that in an ideal world, this is not a dedicated conversation that one would need to have.
“The best thing to do is to create a home environment that is inclusive and nondiscriminatory through using gender-inclusive language and avoiding terminology and behaviors that promote a two-gender, heteronormative world,” he says.
Answers to your top questions
According to Dr. Brown, keeping an open mind as a parent can go very far. “Kids will perceive this more than you think,” he says.
Here, Dr. Brown answers some of parents’ top questions about how to welcome new information without judgement; foster an inclusive, nondiscriminatory home; and hold these very important conversations:
The Sharp Health News Team are content authors who write and produce stories about Sharp HealthCare and its hospitals, clinics, medical groups and health plan.
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