two boys sitting next to each other and smiling

The teenage years are a time when many young people start to discover their sexuality. Sexuality includes feelings and attraction on all different levels - not just who you have sex with. While this is a common part of teenage life, it can also be a confusing time for young people and their families. Find out more about the concepts of sexuality that your child might be dealing with, how to support them during this time, and how to recognise any signs that they may need your support.

Hear from Ross Jacobs from QLife about sexuality and your teenager.

In the video Ross uses the terms gay, lesbian and bisexual however there are other terms that people like to use. And some people don’t even like labels at all! It’s important to read up on this so here’s a list.

  • Heterosexual: Attracted  to the 'opposite' sex or gender. 
  • Lesbian/Gay: Attracted mostly or only to people of the same sex or gender.
  • Bisexual: Attracted to both men and women.
  • Pansexual: Attracted to romantic and/or sexual partners of any gender, sex, or sexual identity.This is different to bisexuality as it acknowledges gender on a spectrum, rather than a binary (ie. two 'opposite' genders).
  • Queer: Some parents may think of ‘queer’ as a slur however it has been largely reclaimed by the community. It’s often used by people who don’t identify with terms like gay or bisexual but who identify as non-heterosexual. It can also be used as an umbrella term to describe people who are LGBTQI.
  • Asexual: Not really sexually attracted to anyone.

What sort of things should I look out for?

Working out your identity and worrying about where you ‘fit in’ can be a challenging time for teenagers, and can cause anxiety, distress and a sense of isolation.

On top of this, bullying is common for same-sex attracted people, with 80% admitting they have experienced bullying and discrimination at some point in their life. You can help your child by recognising the signs that something is up, which may include:

  • being withdrawn from others, or losing interest in usual activities
  • changes in behaviour like being irritable and moody
  • feeling constantly tired or experiencing changes in usual sleeping patterns
  • appearing restless or anxious, or expressing feelings of worry or hopelessness
  • physical symptoms such as a stomach ache or headache.

Remember, discovering their sexuality can also be a liberating positive experience for your teenager. Although many people experience homophobia, coming to terms with their true identity can give your teenager a sense of belonging and an opportunity to connect with a new, nurturing community. You may notice your teenager doing the following:

  • quitting activities they used to do because they thought they 'had to'
  • trying new things that you didn't know they'd be interested in
  • making new friends and sometimes moving away from existing friends

If you think that your child is working through discovering their sexuality you can find ways to support them here. However, if they are feeling distressed and it is impacting their ability to function contact the services below.