Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical, emotional, and cognitive human development that happens before the onset of puberty and ending by adulthood. During this time span, it is typical to begin exploring issues pertaining to sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior.

In or around the teenage years, many adolescents will question their sexual orientation in some way. This is often a confusing time because it is possible to be emotionally attracted to one gender while being physically attracted to another. And sometimes adolescents can find themselves emotionally and physically attracted to one gender while being attracted to a specific person or persons of the opposite gender. These are just some of the reasons why it is normal for adolescents to experience uncertainty or feelings of ambivalence  about their sexual orientation.

Adolescents face a great challenge during the early stages of this developmental period. Many biological and psychological changes happen during this phase, and many adolescents are not adequately prepared to cope with these changes. which often leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. During these early teenage years, the hormonal and physical changes of puberty are often associated with an increase in sexual feelings and desires. Part of this process can help form a deeper understanding of their unique sexual feelings. A sexually healthy adolescent is capable of making decisions about their sexual health that are in line with her or his personal identities, goals, values, and core beliefs.

Is My Teen Struggling with Their Sexuality?

One of the keys to understanding your teen is being able to effectively communicate with him or her. Asking thoughtful questions while remaining unconditionally loving and accepting is a good approach. However, ,you most likely know from experience that it is often difficult for parents to have a meaningful conversation with their teen. At Suffolk Counseling Services, our licensed therapists provide teens with a means of expressing themselves honestly without fear of judgement or scrutiny. We approach each of our clients with compassion and professionalism, enabling them to develop a healthy understanding of their sexuality and achieve emotional wellness.

These are some of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression which may occur during times of transition in teens:

  • Mood instability
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities once found enjoyable
  • Anxiety in social situations
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Substance abuse
teen students studying together

How Does Counseling Help?

At Suffolk Counseling Services, our licensed therapists assist teens in exploring their feelings pertaining to sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior. We help adolescents in learning to accept and appreciate who they are as a person. We also go over the facts relating to the changes that take place throughout puberty, providing teens with a healthy understanding of what happens physically, mentally, and socially, and how those changes affect sexuality.

In the end, teens must choose what personally makes them feel happy and fulfilled. And by providing a judgement-free environment to explore their emotions, counseling helps teens along in this process of self-learning and self-validation.

Helpful Strategies

Discussions involving sex can begin early and take place in your home. Using the correct names for body parts when speaking to your child sends the message that discussions about sex and sexuality are not so embarrassing that they need to be disguised with aliases or slang terminology.

By talking about these topics at a younger age, children can more easily transition to discussing more complex relationships when they are older.

Be sure to ask questions and monitor what your children are viewing on social media and other media outlets. These modes of communication have a powerful effect on teen sexual behavior and can aid in helping them to make healthy choices. Children are more vulnerable to being influenced by the media because it is harder for them to separate factual information from fiction.

As a parent, you are one of the most important influences on your child’s behavior. Try to  set guidelines for your children in a supportive, non-punitive way. By providing unconditional love, a nurturing environment, and setting appropriate boundaries, you are giving your child a greater chance of making healthy decisions as they grow up and become more independent.