What if I Think I'm Gay?

"What if I Think I'm Gay"

Knowing one's sexual orientation is a hot topic among young people, and has been spotlighted in recent years. For some, the uncertainty and doubts about one’s sexuality can cause a lot of stress. How can parents have necessary conversations in safe environments with their children?

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 18 May 2022

The Tween Years (Ages 10-12)

It is commonly established that many factors contribute to sexual orientation - There are both biological factors, and also social and environmental factors.

In your tween years as you approach puberty, the limbic system (the hormone and emotion-fueled part of your brain) goes through a rapid and huge growth spurt.

However, the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for logical and rational processes like decision-making, planning and self-control) is working hard to catch up. It’s estimated that this part of the brain is fully developed only in our mid-twenties.

What does this mis-match in growth mean? Well, as our brains mature, we may find it hard to regulate our emotions and we may be prone to making decisions based solely on emotions.

Understanding this is important as we grow in our self-awareness. When tackling such a complex question like sexual orientation, we wouldn’t want to make any hasty judgements.

These questions may help you process things:

  • What are the reasons you feel this way?
  • Are they reasons or thoughts people without same-sex attraction have too?

Our thoughts also have the power to grow into convictions when we dwell on them. Overthinking - or obsessive thinking - can cause anxiety too. You can avoid this by making a conscious choice to do something different when you start to overthink. This could be as simple as getting up from whatever you are doing and putting on your favourite playlist, doing a chore or engaging in a hobby instead.

You don’t need to figure this out alone — It is good to talk to a safe adult whom you know genuinely cares about you.

The Teen Years (Ages 13-15)

Going back to the common factors that influence sexual orientation, ask yourself what are the social and emotional influences that could have contributed to how you feel.

To really understand ourselves, we may need to explore some tough questions. Could family dynamics or role models and popular culture have affected your inclination? Are the opinions of close friends swaying your own? These are not always easy to answer so it may help to share your thoughts with someone you trust and who knows you well, or to seek help from a counsellor.

It’s helpful to be aware of external social and environmental factors so you can discern your own feelings and your personal stand.

It is also helpful to know that having a same-sex attraction is different from wanting to be like someone of a different sex or wanting someone of the same sex to like you. We can be emotionally drawn to someone of the same sex because of who they are or what they represent. But admiration of a person of the same sex does not mean you have same-sex attraction.

As you grow as a teen, a big question you are figuring out is “Who am I?” Or in other words, your identity.

Besides your sexual orientation, many other things go into your budding identity as an individual. These include family relations, talents and gifts, values and conviction and how you express all of that.

This is the time when your family-taught values can be tested and you may have to learn how to express these values as personal convictions.

Don’t let your questions on sexual orientation overwhelm your entire identity. You are much more than that. Grow in your emotional well-being, your values system, your own development and how you can contribute to society as an individual.

Talk to your parents about relationships, dating and sex. Hear their thoughts on when you can have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The Emerging Years (Ages 16-19)

When you look back at your teenage-hood so far, you may realise that your likes and dislikes and even perhaps convictions have shifted and changed. This trend may continue even into adulthood. Part of growing up – as we learn through new experiences – is this constant change.

If you have experienced same-sex attraction over a long period but have not talked to a trusted adult about it, it may be good to do so. Though you may not be comfortable doing so, talking with a parent or mentor figure means that you don’t go through this journey alone, and you know for sure that you are sharing these private thoughts with someone who loves you and wants the very best for you.

Research shows a high number of sexual abuse cases involve people we know so please choose your "safe person" wisely.

You can prepare for a good conversation by being honest that these are what you feel but you are not sure what it means and involving them by asking for their help. You can also make it clear that it’s hard to talk about it and you are doing so because you trust them.

Setting up conversations this way makes for a better two-way conversation, especially if you are unsure about how they may react.

In our digitally-wired world, you will find opinions and even avenues that invite you to experiment with sexuality. Remember that at the end of the day, you are the first one (besides your present and future family) who will bear the consequences of your choices. So do consult that wiser and more rational pre-frontal cortex before making any leaps.

Continue to make choices that help you grow as a person and set you up for your future too. Ask yourself what you want in a spouse, and what you want your future family to be like. You have your whole life ahead of you.

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

 

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Photo: TOM WANG/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

How to Nurture Your Youth to be a Confident Young Adult

Finding a place in this world

By June Yong | 13 May 2022

We all want our children to grow to become responsible, competent, and confident adults.

But what exactly does that look like, and how do we get there?

Adulting is a term that’s been bantered around rather frequently now and is used by young adults to describe their new roles and experiences. Often, this is done with humour and tagged onto chores you have to pick up, new financial commitments and so on.

But more than these things, young adulthood is also about stepping up – stepping into bigger responsibilities, wider social circles and navigating what the big (and sometimes scary) world means for you as an individual.

Focus on the Family Singapore spoke with two young adults, Nicole Soh, 20, and Jakin Tan, 21, recently on IG Live, on this topic. Here, they share from a young adult’s perspective what adulting looks like, and some tips on how you can set your teen up for success in navigating this life transition and beyond.

Tip #1: Create a safe space for conversations

As Nicole is graduating very soon from polytechnic, for her, adulting for her means making a lot of big decisions about school and career.

She recalled the time when she had to help her dad see the merits of a polytechnic education. Prior to this decision, she felt that conversations with her dad revolved mostly around grades. But as she became more intentional about engaging him in other matters, she found him gradually becoming more open about her pursuing a polytechnic education. Today, she appreciates that she has a safe space to discuss with her parents about the things she learns in school and other happenings around them.

As for mum, Nicole is most appreciative of how she would ask probing questions as she was growing up, questions that would help her to form her own opinions on things, and to have greater clarity on why she wants to make certain choices.

She said, “Dad and mum played different roles in my growing up years. I appreciate that they are able to bring very unique approaches to the table. And that they are willing to discuss things, and go back and forth with me.”

Tip #2: Give them opportunities to make decisions

Jakin is currently waiting to start his university studies in linguistics. But he still remembers vividly how his parents empowered him from young to make his own choices and weighing the pros and cons of each option. (He even kept the notebook he wrote in when deciding on whether to opt for homeschooling or formal schooling!)

He credits his parents for instilling in him a strong sense of independence, and thinks it has helped him to be able to make his own choices, including understanding the “whys” that go into each decision.

Tip #3: Let go, gradually

Jakin described the process of letting go he witnessed in his parents when his elder brother started university, “Because my elder brother is living in a university hall and only comes back on weekends, so a lot of the time he’s living his own life. So I’ve seen my parents be able to chill, and recognise that they have no control over the choices he makes in school. All they can do is just trust that their parenting has been good enough.”

“Now it’s my turn. When I make my own choices, I will have certain reasons, and if I explain it to them, they will let me do what I think is best for myself.”

Nicole chimed in, “If you have younger teens aged 13-14, like just starting secondary school, not only do they have the world to explore, but there are also the dangers of the world. So, it’s totally valid and understandable to be a helicopter parent, to make sure the child is safe.”

“So, on one hand, there are some things parents cannot be there 24/7. On the other hand, there are also instances where the kid wants to hang on for a little bit longer. I think when we have the foundation, we won’t be easily swayed and we know we can always come home to our family, where it’s a safe space.”

“As parents, it’s natural to worry,” Jakin added, “but instead of telling your child not to do this or that, just educate them on what’s good and bad. Your kid will find out anyway, whether it’s about porn or sex, so it’s better to guide them as it will teach them how to make logical decisions.”

Tip #4: Sit beside them and listen

It doesn’t mean that parents always have to do the hard work of education or encouraging our teens. Most of the time, our quiet presence is enough.

As Nicole said, “Very often, parents may feel guilty for not doing enough. But very often, we already feel very loved when you’re just sitting there beside us, listening to us share about our day.”

As parents, it can be hard to restrain ourselves from jumping in and making big decisions for our children, so we can “save” them from making mistakes. But if we look at the longer term, we may begin to see the benefit of allowing them some leeway as they grow to make certain choices and to raise their own viewpoints.

By providing a safe space for conversations and heartfelt sharing to take place in the home, we are actually helping them gain a strong sense of self and identity, promoting confidence and responsibility, while also building a healthy parent-child relationship.

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

June is editor at Focus on the Family Singapore, and Lead of Insights. 

Build a stronger relationship with your growing teen and prepare them for the future at The Select: Mission 1114 -- an interactive hybrid adventure for parents and tweens to form meaningful connections with each other.

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Focus on the Family Singapore Celebrates 20th Anniversary with State of the Family 2022

Feedback on MSF Recommendations on Women’s Charter Amendments

Focus on the Family Singapore's view on family violence

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 12 May 2022

As a local charity, protecting the interests and wellbeing of women and families is of utmost importance to us, even as we build on our upstream work of helping marriages and children thrive. We thank MSF for sharing its recommendations that extensively deals with the issue of family violence and in turn allowing us to give our inputs. We are saddened about cases where individuals, particularly those in vulnerable groups, experience abuse by family members with whom they expect to feel safe.

Over the years, our staff and associates trained as help professionals in the area of counselling, social work and psychology have worked directly with victims and perpetrators of family violence. Our Family Life Educators are also regularly engaged in the upstream work of building strong families. We refer to the MSF Consultation Paper on their recommendations on the Women’s Charter amendments in relation to family violence, and herewith offer our perspectives with regards to strengthening protection for survivors of family violence, enhancing the accountability and strengthening rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence, enhancing sensitivity towards differently-abled persons and protection of other women and girls.

In this feedback paper, we address the above four objectives cited by MSF. Collectively as a society, we hope to co-create the best possible outcome for families and for Singapore as a whole, both now and in the future.

A. Feedback on proposed amendments to strengthen protection for survivors of family violence

Prohibit publication or broadcast of identifiable information for family violence cases and to provide the Family Court to make takedown orders to remove or stop such prohibited publications or broadcast.

We support the proposed amendment in order to protect the identities and wellbeing of the persons involved, especially for the person experiencing family violence and/or when it involves the vulnerable young.

However, exceptions should be made where it is necessary to break the silence around abuse (e.g. sharing one’s testimony of overcoming family violence as either a victim or perpetrator), or to alert of and protect against potential (ongoing) harm inflicted by the person perpetrating violence. Perhaps a time-bound prohibition tied to the duration of the PPO can be implemented.

This should also be clearly differentiated from the reporting of suspected family violence cases (Annex item 15), otherwise a person who acts in good faith and with reasonable care to intervene in the case of family violence would be subject to the unhealthy secrecy that shrouds and perpetuates such unacceptable behaviour.

B. Feedback on proposed amendments to enhance the accountability and strengthen the rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence

  1. Disallow applications for the revocation of PPOs where the counselling order has not been completed.
  2. We support the proposed amendment as safety – physical and psychological – is paramount, and positive change in terms of rehabilitation or restoration should be the ultimate goal. In the thick of a volatile and perhaps chronic family violence situation, both the PPO applicant and respondent are prone to swing between extremes of behaviour and less objective changes of mind.

    Exceptions may be made where the case worker or help professional* is able to assess that there is sufficient safety and stability in the relationship for the PPO to be revoked, despite the counselling order not being fulfilled. A possibility is to make the exception based on the stage or degree of completion of the counselling order where there is a valid reason for incompletion, such as a severe or prolonged medical illness; or based on assurance of mitigating support (e.g. family members who are available and able to intervene as necessary).

    In any case, given that the premise of the counselling order is to bring about a complete cessation to the violence as well as healing to the person(s) involved and their relationship, there should be a commitment and attempts made to complete the healing journey even after the PPO is revoked.

    *This could fall within the jurisdiction of the Director-General of Social Welfare (DGSW) and its appointed protectors e.g. selected MSF offices, appointed social service professionals, to make the judgement as well as third-party (time-limited) immediate PPO applications.

  3. Take a stronger approach against breaches of counselling orders and the proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders, including making breaches of both types of orders a criminal offence.
  4. The proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders are intended for perpetrators with treatable mental conditions that contributed to or exacerbate the risk of occurrence of family violence.

    We agree that a stronger approach for breaches of both counselling orders and assessment and treatment orders – which should be broadened to include other interventions and programmes aimed at reducing the risk of recurrence of family violence and increasing the success rate of recovery – would help to ensure that perpetrators of family violence take these orders seriously and make a reasonable effort to follow them through.

    Making such breaches a criminal offence would definitely lend weight to the orders and enable help professionals to enforce them as necessary interventions and hold their clients accountable. The moot point is likely about how heavy the penalty should be for a breach, which could be guided by the severity of the case and how recalcitrant the offender.

    It may be necessary and fair to enforce a counselling or treatment order on the applicant as well, in which case there should be differentiation of the penalty incurred for the applicant vs the perpetrator of family violence for a breach of such orders.

    All said, while the “punishment” should fit the “crime”, one can lead a horse to water but cannot force it to drink. The penalty should not be limited to a fine or prison sentence and criminal record; “exposing” a perpetrator to their supervisor and identified colleagues can help hold them accountable for their actions while providing the necessary community support towards better prosocial and respectful behaviours.

C. Feedback on other proposed amendments

Remove the derogatory term “mental defective” from section 144 of the Women’s Charter. 

MSF welcomes feedback from the public on a more appropriate description to be used.

We commend MSF for being sensitive to the times. Some more appropriate terms that can be considered: “differently-abled persons” or “persons suffering from mental illnesses” or “persons with an intellectual disability” or “persons with a mental health issue”.

D. Other feedback on Women’s Charter provisions in relation to family violence and the protection of women and girls under 21 years who are under the protection of the Director-General of Social Welfare (DGSW)

We welcome other feedback regarding the Women’s Charter provisions in relation to family violence and the protection of women and girls under 21 years who are under the protection of the DGSW.

In order to protect such vulnerable groups of women and girls under 21 years old, we should go upstream to address the root issues of abuse and violence against women, and take a stronger preventive rather than a remedial stance. In the area of family violence, prevention is better than cure, especially when a (more vulnerable) person’s life could be at stake.

  1. One key strategy would be to adopt an early and holistic approach to sexuality education, by equipping parents to be the main source of such critical information on relationships, health and values.
  2. Reference: https://www.family.org.sg/FOTFS/Blog/Social_Issues/sexuality_education_that_develops_sexual_intelligence_in_youth.aspx

  3. We should seek to uphold a culture of respect and honour for women in our young from an early age, going beyond merely teaching consent to emphasising healthy boundaries, self-restraint, mutual respect and care. The intentional shaping of such positive gender narratives will also empower women to better protect themselves.
  4. Reference: https://www.family.org.sg/FOTFS/Blog/Social_Issues/womens-development-empowerment-singapore-2021.aspx

  5. As a society, we must raise the awareness of the dangers of children and youths viewing sexually explicit content. Viewing such material can negatively influence their knowledge about sex and distort their expectations of relationships. Teenage boys who view pornography frequently are more likely to view women as sex objects and display aggressive behaviour.
  6. Reference: https://aifs.gov.au/publications/effects-pornography-children-and-young-people, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/watching-porn-getting-addicted-experts-tell-cases-theyve-seen-and-risks-linked-sexual

  7. We should rally families and the wider community in extending proper, practical and emotional support for pregnant teenagers and single mothers.

Through such an integrated, long-term and cohesive approach, and by upholding the importance of Family as the first line of defence, we can work towards a healthy appreciation of the different yet equally valuable roles of men and women, resulting in stronger marriages and families, and reduced occurrences of familial breakdowns and violence.

For the latest news and research on family and social issues, do subscribe to Family in the Headlines!

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

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