9 November 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
I am feeling woefully unprepared to parent teenagers in 2021.
Right now I am struggling to know what to say on the subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity. The terminology has changed so drastically from what I had expected as I raised my kids—e.g., “gender assigned at birth”—and I am struggling to keep myself in the conversations with my teens that are relevant to them.
In June, for Pride month, our church and the Mormon church are the only ones not flying a rainbow flag—and my teens notice this. They have friends who are LGBTQ+, and my children and other children I know sometimes seem to question their own sexual orientation and gender identity—which is a whole other level of terrifying to me. I am trying to be a loving and supportive parent. But these children didn’t show any signs of such inclinations growing up, so I wonder: are they being sucked into what is trendy right now, or not understanding things like body image issues? I’m having a hard time thinking that this might be really who they are, rather than being swayed by what feels trendy right now.
And, to be blunt, I am longing to feel safe talking about these issues with my church and congregation—but I don’t. I’m scared to go there. The main guidance the church offers is the Fundamental Beliefs, which my teens find outdated and incompatible with what they are also learning about a God of unconditional love.
Should I broach these topics with my pastor and church community? How can we give space to kids who are questioning their own gender or sexuality and provide a safe space for them to work it out—and not have them simply being swayed by all the talk about it? I wanted them to stay rooted in God and, hopefully, the Adventist church, but it feels like a no-win situation.
Signed, Blindsided Parent
Let’s remember that first and foremost, God loves your children and is watching out for them.
Teen years have never been easy for parents. Do you remember when you were a teen and did things that scared your mom and dad? Perhaps you wore your hair a bit too long, or your skirt a little too short, or listened to music that was objectionable to them. Do you remember how your parents reacted, how they worried their darling child was going down a dangerous and destructive road?
But you turned out to be a thoughtful and well-adjusted adult!
Looking back, they may have later realized you were just experimenting with your own identity. Because even without the LGBTQ+ factor, teens and preteens are hard-wired to test the boundaries, try stuff out, and discard what doesn’t work for them. One young preteen Aunty knows insists that she must wear only black or camouflage clothing and nothing “girly”—though she was wearing princess dresses a short few years ago. Another teen of my acquaintance says that he wants long hair even though he hates showering or grooming said hair.
And just as teens and pre-teens are hard-wired to test the limits, we parents are hard-wired to worry about them!
Take heart: your child will be okay. This is a normal part of growing up. While you are facing different forms of expression than your parents faced when you were a teen, the principle is the same. Keep loving them, and do your best to manage your emotional reaction as they search for an identity. Remember that they are young, and still figuring out who they are.
Like your parents were challenged by your choices, you will be challenged by theirs. But for now, let your differences be a growing experience for both of you, rather than a conflict.
I also know this: that if your child is gay, you’ll still love them. (And by the way, if that happens, Adventist Kinship is a wonderful place to get support.)
As for the church, although Aunt Sevvy cannot control how others in the church will accept children who are exploring these parts of themselves, she insists on this: Aunty would rather be kicked out of a church than compromise, for even a moment, her belief that her child deserves anything but complete acceptance from her. And we know that God is even more loving and accepting than we human parents are!
What if you could convince your Adventist church to hang a Pride flag, too? That would let all the church’s children know that they are loved and accepted no matter who they grow up to be!
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published — always without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.