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Topics in
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1 Friendships

2 Romantic and sexual awakening

3 The need for independence

Psychosexual and emotional
development during adolescence

Adolescence, the stage of development between childhood and adulthood, is a period of great change. For teens, just like for those who spend time with them every day (caregivers or other significant adults), this means a lot of adjustment!

This section tackles adolescents’ psychosexual and emotional development. It will surely help you better understand your teenager and learn more about (or remember) what adolescence is, in all its aspects.

développement psychosexuel et affectif

1 Friendships

Friendships

Friends often play an important role in teenagers’ lives. For some, they become a second family. The beginning of high school is often synonymous with new friendships and the creation of groups of friends.

Teenagers learn a lot through their friendships: how to defend their opinion, assert their place in a group, communicate their ideas and needs, resolve disagreements, negotiate decisions, share their concerns, etc.

Les relations d’amitié

Here are some examples of things teenagers can learn through their friendships:

Voici des exemples d’apprentissage que les jeunes peuvent faire au sein de leurs relations d’amitié

 

Fights and “heartbreaks” can therefore occur during this period. Teens are also discovering what they want from their friendships: What is a fulfilling friendship? How can they be a good friend and be there for their friends? The older teenagers get, the more their friendships needs become clearer and the more their choices in friends are refined.

Consequently, adolescence can be seen as a period of “tests” on various aspects. Teens may try to identify with people with different clothing styles or musical tastes, less conventional behaviors, other interests, etc. These experimentations let them develop their own identity, little by little.

Their interactions with and the time they spend with their peer group also allow them to gain different perspectives on the world and to observe ways of acting that are different from the ones of the adults around them. Friends’ opinions often hold a lot of weight, and friendships allow teenagers to experience equal relationships.

Peer groups are an opportunity for many teenagers to feel like they belong, which is often very valuable. For some teenagers, friends represent safety in the school setting. Within the group, they can safely confide in each other and feel understood. The desire to be accepted and recognized by their peers is often very present.

relation chicane

However, it’s important not to make generalizations. Not all teenagers feel the need to have a group, to be validated by their peers, to be like them, etc. Indeed, some teenagers are more solitary, and that’s fine too. Your teen can still have meaningful relationships in their life.

The makeup of teenagers’ peer groups may change during adolescence, for several reasons. It is therefore sometimes necessary to ask your teenager about their current friendships, so you can stay up to date.

Here are some questions you can ask them to do so:

  • Who do you spend time with at school, outside of school?
  • What do you like to do with your friends?
  • What don’t you like to do with your friends?
  • What are your friends interested in?
  • What is your opinion of your friends?
  • Are there conflicts in your friendships? Rifts? Differences of opinion and values?

It’s also important to learn to trust teenagers as well as in their ability to make choices. It’s often beneficial to be kind and listen, without necessarily always taking a critical look at their choices. As adults who have had many experiences, it’s normal to want to help them avoid failures, because you have learned, over the years, the consequences of certain actions. Trusting them, little by little, can strengthen their assertiveness and your relationship with them. It’s also very gratifying for teenagers to feel that the adults around them trust them and their judgement.

relation groupe

During adolescence, your teen may become friends with other teenagers who make you wary, or who don’t live up to your ideal of a friendship. It can be very challenging and worrying to watch your teenager spend time with someone who doesn’t share the values of your family, who comes from a different environment, etc.

Keep in mind that your teenager is learning what a positive friendship is. Ask your teenager what the relationship brings them, what they like and don’t like about this friendship. Actively listening can be difficult but can help you better understand what your teen is living. Rather than just giving your opinion right away, encourage your teenager to reflect on the friendship by asking the following questions. The goal is to encourage their critical thinking.

apprentissage relation

  • How do you feel in this friendship?
  • What does this friendship bring you?
  • What do you like about this friendship?
  • What don’t you like about this friendship?
  • Tell me about the times when things aren’t working as well in this friendship (e.g., fights, misunderstandings, etc.).
  • Do you feel respected?
  • Do you feel like you’re free to express your opinion?
  • Do you feel like you’re both equal, that you’re both equally important to each other?
Share with your teenager what you want for them. For example:
  • I want you to feel good in this friendship, that’s what I want for you
  • You have the right to a reciprocal friendship
  • I’ve noticed that you’re sad or frustrated when you get back from this friend’s place, am I wrong? You can talk to me about it.

 

If you’re worried about your teenager’s friendships, you can share your concerns with them. Ask the staff at your teenager’s school for help, especially when the friend in question goes to the same school. Often, when the caregiver/significant adult is compassionate and open to listening, the limits are clearly established between you and the teen, and family values have been passed on, the teenager will realize that the friendship doesn’t suit them.

2 Romantic and sexual awakening

Teens’ romantic and sexual awakening is often synonymous with intense emotions such as joy, excitement, and anticipation, but can also be accompanied by fears, insecurities, anxiety, stress, worries, pressure, etc.

Here are some examples of questions teenagers can ask themselves during their adolescence:

  • How do you tell someone you like them?
  • What is love?
  • How do I know if the other person feels the same way I do?
  • I like someone who’s a lot older than me, what do I do?
  • How long should I wait before engaging in sexual activity with my first boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • What is the first sexual experience like?
  • Is it normal to be stressed?
  • How do I know when I’m ready to have my first sexual experience? Am I normal if I’ve never kissed anyone?
  • Am I normal if I’ve never had a boyfriend/girlfriend? A sexual experience?
  • Is it normal that I didn’t enjoy my first sexual experience?
  • How can I be sure about my sexual orientation?
  • Is it normal that love and sex don’t interest me at all?

L’éveil amoureux et sexuel

Teenagers ask themselves tons of questions and often look for answers. Peer groups provide opportunities to talk about romantic relationships and sexuality, among other things. Even if teenagers have not yet had romantic relationships or sexual experiences, they observe how their friends act in relationships and listen to their stories about their romantic and/or sexual experiences.

Friends can influence certain sexual choices, such as using a condom or not, taking hormonal contraception or not, when to have their first sexual experience, which romantic partner to choose, being open to sexual diversity, etc. These are all elements that your teenager’s peer group can have an influence on, just like you.

Through their peer group, teenagers have access to certain contexts that can lead to their first romantic or sexual contacts, such as evenings with friends. When the peer group is reassuring and healthy, it often allows teenagers to have their first experiences in an environment they feel safe in, which is desirable.

It’s important to mention that even though friends influence teenagers’ choices, caregivers/significant adults remain the most important influence for most teenagers. Therefore, you shouldn’t think that teenagers will necessary adopt all the same behaviors as their peers without asking themselves any questions.

Les jeunes se posent énormément de questions et cherchent souvent à avoir des réponses.

Gender identity and sexual orientation

Adolescence is a period of exploration and experimentation. For many teenagers, the first romantic and sexual experiences they have or observe can lead to questions about their own sexual orientation. Adolescence, which is also characterized by self-discovery, may also lead to questions about gender identity. 

 
 

1. What do we mean by biological sex?

Biological sex refers to the sex assigned at birth by a doctor, who generally makes the determination based on external genital organs.

However, someone’s biological sex is determined by several characteristics that are often overlooked, such as internal genital organs, sexual chromosomes, and the hormones produced by the body.

Consequently, on an anatomical level, the biological sexes are male, female and intersex (when a person’s sex has both male and female characteristics).

2. What do we mean by gender identity?

Gender identity refers to the deep and personal feeling of identifying as a man, a woman, both these genders, no gender, or another gender.

When someone’s gender identity corresponds to their biological sex/sex assigned at birth, this person is referred to as cisgender. However, there are gender identities that do not correspond to the sex assigned at birth (non-binary, agender, bigender, etc.). Trans and non-binary people are those whose gender identity does not correspond to the sex they are assigned at birth. Several pertinent definitions can be found on the Interligne website: https://interligne.co/en/faq

3. What do we mean by gender expression?

This refers to how someone expresses their gender identity.

It is society rather than biological sex that dictates what is viewed as masculine or feminine. Few people completely correspond to the societal models of femininity or masculinity. Rather, what is observed is that there are as many ways to express gender as there are people.

4. What do we mean by sexual and romantic orientation?

Sexual orientation refers to someone’s physical and sexual attraction towards other people. Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, and heterosexuality are a few examples of sexual orientations, but there are many ways to define personal sexual orientation (see glossaries at the end of this section).  

As for romantic orientation, it refers to romantic and emotional attraction towards another person.  It is a feeling that makes someone want to be in love and/or be in a relationship, a couple.  

For many, sexual and romantic orientation align, meaning that the people they are attracted to sexually are of the same gender or genders as the people they fall in love with. For others, sexual and romantic attractions differ.

Sexual and romantic orientation becomes clearer namely through self-knowledge and romantic and sexual exploration. However, orientation is fluid and can change throughout someone’s life. Sexual and romantic orientation is not a choice, but is rather revealed through self-discovery and experimentation.

It is completely healthy and normal for teenagers to ask themselves questions and to search for answers. For some parents, it can be challenging to guide their teenager through this period of questioning: how can you help them know and understand themselves better?

If your teenager is looking for answers, they can get information from you, their friends, or online. By being informed on various topics related to sexual and gender diversity, you will be better able to support your teenager. Scientific studies show that teenagers who go through this period of questioning more positively are those who get support from their parents. Your role is essential!

Coming out

Long referred to as “coming out of the closet”, coming out is a personal process through which someone shares information about their sexual/romantic orientation and/or their gender identity with others.  This is usually a gradual process that begins by someone talking about it with a few people close to them (friends, family members) and that continues throughout life. Some people choose to share with only a small group of trusted people, while others feel comfortable talking about it more widely. Everyone experiences their coming out at a different age and in their own way.  However, it’s clear that coming out is a more positive experience when people do it when they feel ready and choose how they want to do it themselves, who is present, etc.

Your teenager may share their sexual/romantic orientation and/or their gender identity with you. This is not only an important step in your teenager’s self-assertion but also an enormous show of trust on their part.  For many teenagers, this is an important step towards self-acceptance, and they fear their parents’ reaction. Your reaction can change many things for your child, for better or worse. 

When your teenager confides in you, they are hoping you will listen and support them, but you may not know how to respond or react.  Don’t hesitate to start the conversation by thanking your teenager for trusting you:

  • “Thank you for trusting me and confiding in me.”
  • “It means a lot that you confided something so important to me.”
  • “I’m here for you and I will always love you. I’m glad you told me.”

Even though you may feel a variety of emotions, it is best to avoid more negative reactions, for example those that trivialize the confidence or that evoke stereotypes:  

  • “That’s all you wanted to tell me? That’s not a big deal!”
  • “You’re a lesbian? But you’re not masculine!”

You can then continue the conversation by asking open-ended, thoughtful questions, such as:

  • “How do you feel?”
  • “Is there anything I can do for you?”
  • “Would you like me to be there when you come out to other people?”

Your teenager confiding in you can make you realize that you don’t have enough information about diversity. However, it is not your teenager’s responsibility to educate you. You can find your own answers by visiting information websites or talking to a counsellor. Avoid asking your teenager for explanations such as:

  • “If you’re trans, does that mean that you want to be a girl?”
  • “Does being bisexual mean you’re attracted 50% to guys and 50% to girls?”

Instead, you can say:

  • “I admit I don’t know a lot about this topic, I’ll do some research on my end.”
  • “If you’d like to share how you’re experiencing your orientation/your identity, I’m interested in learning about your reality.”

This conversation can also take place in several stages as your teenager may still be questioning or they may confide in you little by little.  If your teenager receives a positive, favourable reaction from you, they will be more likely to confide other parts of their life later.

You may be asking yourself questions about your child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but you may not know how to start the conversation with them. Remember that your teenager may not feel comfortable talking about it with you right now. There is nothing to gain by rushing things and forcing your teenager to talk to you. For your part, you can simply show them your openness by talking about sexual and gender diversity in a general way by bringing up current events, TV series, movies or celebrities. Address the topic with sensitivity and respect. If you’re interested in your teenager’s romantic life, rather than asking “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?”, ask a more inclusive question like “Do you have someone in your life, are you interested in anyone right now?” Finally, you can’t go wrong by reminding your teenager that you’re there if they have any questions or need to talk to someone.

Your child’s coming out may come as a surprise to you, and you may have your own fears. Some parents are afraid their teenager will be bullied or discriminated against after coming out, while others ask themselves if they could have done anything differently as parents, especially when their teenager seems to be having a hard time coming to terms with their orientation or identity. By focusing on your teenager, who is going through a moment of vulnerability and is counting on you, it will be easier to know how to act. Remember that your teenager trusts you enough to open up to you, and that it is important to listen and be open and compassionate in response.  

Keep in mind that your teenager is dealing with many emotions regarding their coming out. As a result, they may not be able to support you in this process by answering your questions or by easing your concerns. If you need to sort through your own feelings about the situation, we recommend you seek support for yourself, for example by confiding in someone close to you or by consulting resources for parents. Speaking to a counsellor can be a good way to put your thoughts in order.  

Qorientation sexuelle

To find out more, don’t hesitate to consult LGBTQ2S+ resources. Here are a few:

 

The importance of privacy

The need for privacy becomes increasingly present during adolescence. It’s important to be aware that this need can grow as the teenager develops. However, not all teenagers have the same need for privacy and personal space.

The need for privacy, to be alone, is common and normal in teenagers. For example, it can allow teenagers to refocus on themselves. It’s also one of the ways in which they manifest their independence toward their caregivers/significant adults. You may experience some nostalgia for the evenings you spent together when they were children. But don’t worry, as this newfound independence is part of the stages of development.

Don’t hesitate to question them about their need for privacy, for example if you feel like they’re spending a lot of time in their room. Talking to them is a proof of openness on your part and allows your teenager to feel respected in their need for privacy.

You can sometimes wonder if your teenager is isolated, or if they simply need space or a moment alone. Isolation generally refers to a teenager who refuses or avoids contact with others. It’s a teenager who has no friends or who doesn’t appreciate relationships with others, etc. There can be times when a teenager will be more isolated. Tactfully questioning your teen allows you to understand what lies behind this isolation. Also, some teenagers are happy in this situation. In fact, what’s important is checking how the teenager feels in their situation.

importance intimité

3 The need for independence

Teens’ interests as children can change with adolescence. They are looking to define themselves, to make their own personal choices. You may have misgivings regarding their choices as well as a sense of powerlessness.

As caregivers/significant adults, it can be difficult to see your children change, to see them pull away to create their own identity. Conflicts may sometimes increase during this period, and this is completely normal. Differences of opinion on various topics can be the cause of these disagreements. Teenagers develop opinions on many topics, and these aren’t always in line with those you’ve imparted.

The need for independence is normal and is part of development. This can translate to a need to redefine the established rules and limits. It’s normal for teenagers to test limits and want to make decisions for themselves, unhindered. Remember that they often want to live their own experiences and come to their own conclusions on various topics.

However, despite this, teens may still need to experiment by themselves. Compromises can be a good way to find a middle ground between adults’ needs and teens’ desires. Don’t hesitate to tell your teen that you understand that respecting the rules may be hard, but that it’s your job to guide and support them.

autonomie

présence et soutien