By LAUREN FORCELLA
DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’ve been searching for insight regarding our 13-year-old daughter. Public affection with her best friend “Ashley” has increased and it seems they are intimate behind an always-closed door. I don’t think my daughter is gay (we are not homophobic — my brother is gay), however, I’m extremely uncomfortable with their secrecy. We don’t allow our 17-year-old son closed-door privacy with his girlfriend. I’m not a helicopter parent but I’m considering disallowing their overnights. Would it be detrimental to ask if she is being intimate with Ashley? If she denies it, then what? My radar knows differently. The other concern is that she was cutting herself last year and she’s confided she’s cutting again. (Yes, she sees a counselor.) Ashley was involved and we’ve heard she cuts too — she’s from a very troubled family. My daughter is an excellent student and our relationship is pretty open, but this is challenging.
— Worried Mom in Monclova, Ohio
Frankie, 24, Sacramento: Communicate without shaming, accusing or dismissing your daughter’s feelings. To reduce embarrassment or emotional overwhelm, start with, “How are you feeling lately?” I realized my attraction to girls in middle school but didn’t act on it or discuss it with my parents until college. Even then (though they are incredibly accepting and supportive of gay rights), I didn’t have the courage to come out as “bisexual.” Your daughter may not be gay or bisexual. Perhaps she is experimenting, or her friend is pressuring her. Start an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests. Walk by and monitor activities. This situation requires helicoptering! If they ARE being intimate, then NO, they shouldn’t be sleeping together. This doesn’t mean you shame and alienate, but kids want boundaries, not parents in the clouds. Trust your intuition!
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: Your daughter may be going through a bisexuality movement common among 13- to 15-year-olds from California to Florida. It’s almost like an initiation to determine if you’re straight or gay. It’s very widespread in rural Maine. When I was a senior, the entering freshman class had nearly a quarter of the boys and half the girls experimenting. Same-sex activity isn’t “home free” from disease. I’ve heard of 11-year-olds bringing home genital herpes.
Cutting must be addressed swiftly to avoid long-term effects. As a former cutter, having to constantly hide the scars is tedious. Your daughter needs your affection, compassion, and guidance.
Jessie, 21, Eugene, Ore.: Establish a “doors-open” rule for all guests. Regarding sleepovers, tell her you respect all orientations — thus her rules are the same as her brother’s. Also, it’s OK to express dislike of choices or friends (though never in front of them!) My mom encouraged such mutual honesty. She also always reminded me that decisions have consequences and to ask myself if the worst possible consequence of a decision was worth making that choice.
Stressful choices often go hand in hand — and cutting is very serious. In addition to her counselor, are there other adults close to your daughter? I benefited greatly from an aunt and uncle who shared their youthful experimentations and lessons learned. They never preached and didn’t automatically “report” our discussions to my parents. Even though my mom is one of my best friends, there’s still a line.
Dear Worried: Many young girls who write us with bisexual stress are cutting. Any sexual activity too young usually leads to depression. With ’experimental’ sex, it can spiral into a very dark place. I’m glad you heard it from the panel: Communicate, but trust your intuition; establish an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests; disallow overnights with Ashley. In a loving-firm manner, find the strength to enforce the rules your daughter desperately needs. — Lauren
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