Q: Why Is My Teen So Upset by Sex?
Your adolescent may understand biological facts and truths. But that doesn’t mean she’s developmentally ready to acknowledge that her parents have sexual intercourse, or that her body is changing rapidly. If your teen is struggling with sexuality and gender, heed this important advice from a parenting specialist.
Q: “My 16-year-old daughter with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) walked in on her father and me. Ever since then she has been hearing things, getting up after lights out, tearing up our things, yelling at us, screaming at us, accusing us of doing things, and physically fighting with us. We already had the birds and the bees talk with her, but she is upset by sex. She goes to a specialist and has been on every medication under the sun! Things have improved a lot, but I could use some advice for the future.” — Mom with ADHD
Dear Mom with ADHD:
It’s great to hear that you have a specialist involved because what you describe is not a typical reaction that you would expect from an adolescent with ADHD. It makes sense to have your daughter working with a good therapist, preferably one who has some experience with issues of sexuality and gender. When a teen reacts this intensely, there are almost certainly underlying issues that need to be addressed with a qualified medical professional.
That said, you still have to live with her and respond as best as you can! So here are a few thoughts to help you navigate these choppy waters.
1. Issues of sexuality are complex and are best handled in many conversations over time, not just by explaining the birds and the bees. You might initiate general conversations that raise body awareness, for example. Or take a yoga class together. Shift the focus from sexuality per se to begin to help her feel more comfortable in her own body.
2. We teach a 3-step model for communicating called ACE, which stands for Acknowledge, Compassion, and then Explore options (problem solve). Start by acknowledging her experience. When she begins to yell, say something like, “I’m so sorry that you’re really upset with us right now. That can’t feel good for you. I know I hate it when I’m really mad at someone I love.”
Avoid telling her to calm down, or trying to fix things. Instead, try to meet her where she is without getting defensive yourself. Show compassion for how upset she feels. Stay out of problem-solving at this point — just stay focused on making it okay for her to feel whatever she’s feeling.
3. As things get better, continue the conversations about what she thinks and feels about her body. Acknowledge whatever she shares, and avoid giving her the message that she shouldn’t feel that way.
Bottom line for you: stay curious. She has something she wants help figuring out, but she may not feel safe enough, yet, to ask for the help she needs. Create a safe place for her and stay open. She needs your help, and you’ll be in a better position to offer it if you stay out of being upset or defensive, yourself.
The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.