I recently learned that my 17-year-old daughter is romantically involved with a female schoolmate. During the school year, as a favor to this young lady’s mother, I let my daughter’s friend live in our home so she could attend school in the district. I noticed an unusual closeness between the two girls. The other day I discovered love letters from this girl in my daughter’s possession, and I decided to confront her. My daughter told me she was “experimenting.”
I’m deeply concerned and unsure how to handle her exploration of lesbianism. Our relationship has changed for the worse since this discovery. We’ve always been close, and I’ve supported her choices. My daughter is smart, beautiful, a gifted basketball player and an all-around wonderful person. But now she’s changing. She’s distant and argumentative. I want to help her, but I need help myself.
Many parents share your concerns. In fact, most teens are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and sexually grappling with questions of purpose, path and identity. Who am I? What do I want? What makes me feel good? Such issues remain unresolved for many adults. Young people tend to be more willing to experiment to find answers. To compassionately and appropriately support your daughter’s development, remove all labels, such as lesbianism, from her experience. To do otherwise saddles her with judgment, which can cause her shame and unnecessary guilt. This may have created the wedge between the two of you.
Keep the door of communication open. Your daughter needs to know that she can talk with you openly and that, while she can trust herself to make choices, she has your support in doing so. Give her a big hug and tell her you love her. Acknowledge her for telling you the truth. Like so many teenagers, she could have lied or hidden her experience from you.
I will offer you what my son offered me when we were going through a difficult time in his life: Stop judging, and be a confidante. Choose your words carefully. Ask all questions gently. Talk to your daughter about her vision for herself and her life. You don’t have to agree with all her choices, but you must learn to accept them. In doing so, you help her develop and value her authentic self.
Which brings us to the next issue: Just who is your daughter? You say she’s beautiful, talented and intelligent. Her character cannot be altered by sexual experimentation. Ask yourself, Would my concerns be the same if she were dating a young man I was not fond of? You may fear that all you dream for her may not materialize if her sexual orientation is not what you believe it needs to be.
Do not let your judgments or fears diminish what she chooses for herself. Be mindful that most of the “changes” you perceive in her could be in your own mind. If you find this situation too difficult to handle alone, seek out a parents’ support group in your community. I will hold you in the light of compassionate understanding and acceptance. In the meantime, be blessed!