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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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Hi. I found a handwritten letter in my 16 yr old sons suit

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Hi. I found a handwritten letter in my 16 yr old son's suit jacket when I took it to the cleaners yesterday. It was a handwritten poem, written in rap-music style (what he listens to) to person named Alex and had homosexual content. It was signed "Love James aka Blue Jay". Our son has never had a girlfriend, and his facebook posts occasionally have references from school kids that he is a "fag". I only see these when I "snoop" onto his pages when he is out. Nothing I'm proud of, but I do it. Last weekend I found a man's picture on his "friends" list - I didn't know him or of him. It was before I found the letter and I didn't take any details down - name etc.
He is the youngest of my 3 and the only boy. His dad and I separated last year. We have always been an "inclusive-thinking" family, but we don't have any openly gay people in our social circle. Where do I start the conversation with him?

Dr Levang :

Hello,

Dr Levang :

I would like to help you with your question.

Dr Levang :

This is a very delicate situation. And you already know that it will have to be handled with the utmost respect and compassion.

Dr Levang :

I understand that you are not "proud" of snooping...but that you are doing this out of love and concern for your child. Yet...you know it is an invasion of his privacy...even if he is 16 years old and living under your roof...and you will have to acknowledge that you did this.

Customer:

OK so are you suggesting that is where I start the conversation?

Dr Levang :

I think there are several issues here. One is about his possible homosexual orientation. Two is about your violating his privacy. Three is your concern about this man on his facebook account.

Dr Levang :

Yes...I think it might be best if you acknowledge what you did first. Then you are modeling honesty and that makes it far easier for you to go on with the conversation about his sexual orientation and the man.

Customer:

Fair enough. What if the man has nothing to do with this at all?

Dr Levang :

If you don't admit to your behavior and acknowledge that you are sorry for breaking trust...then he may just get defensive and that's the end of any discussion.

Dr Levang :

That certainly could be true that the man is a no body. But at this point you have no idea one way or the other who this man is? And...it sounds like you are worried that he is a perpetrator-right?

Dr Levang :

The man could be someone's brother, or cousin, or father...but you don't know that.

Dr Levang :

And...in this day and age...as his parent, you have the right to ask the question.

Dr Levang :

Whether he provides a truthful answer is another story. But you can ask - and be clear about why you want to know.

Customer:

It is another worry - a big one for sure. He's not a teacher at his school, and the other "friends" were kids. I was looking b/c his Dad and sisters had been "friends", but james "unfriended" them all at some point this school year.

Dr Levang :

Okay...so you have good reason to question this.

Dr Levang :

Is that a concern..that James unfriended his family...or is that not an issue?

Customer:

I was hoping that his dad was still in the list. I have never been with any of the kids, b/c they all live with me.

Dr Levang :

Do you think he is gay?

Customer:

I will ask his sisters if they are still friends with James, b/c I'm quite sure they weren't listed.

Customer:

Do I think he's gay? He could be.

Dr Levang :

If he is, what do you think about that?

Dr Levang :

Or...do you think this is just an adolescent phase of sexual discovery?

Customer:

I say that b/c he's never shown the slight interest in girls. He has been a "late bloomer" in other respects, and so that could be it.

Customer:

He hasn't shown any sexual interests at all.

Dr Levang :

Has his sister's or your husband ever said anything ... have they wondered?

Customer:

His eldest sister (almost 22) went through a phase where she thought she wanted to be a man, about a year ago, so nothing would surprise me, I suppose.

Dr Levang :

That's pretty typical for boys...some are not so interested in their high school years.

Customer:

Nobody else has ever said they thought James could be gay. But funny thing is, after my husband and I separated, our minister asked me if my husband was.

Dr Levang :

Okay...that's good that you are open to your kids exploring their sexual identities and do not get "feaked-out".

Dr Levang :

That is a bit odd that the minister would say that...but everyone is entitled to their own perspective and thoughts.

Customer:

I try to not freak out. We've always had an open door policy on that kind of thing. Our oldest daughter's best friend through high school was really 'out', so...

Dr Levang :

So perhaps he is exploring his identity...perhaps he will be a late bloomer sexually.

Dr Levang :

Sounds like you have laid the foundation for very healthy thinking in your home

Customer:

I have considered having my son assessed professionally, mostly due to the marriage breakdown. My son has been quite closed about his emotions.

Dr Levang :

! Good for you! That's really wonderful that you allow your children to express themselves and to find their own way.

Customer:

I like to think that we did a good job about acceptance, but then I wonder when they wonder and seem to struggle with figuring themselves out.

Dr Levang :

Is there something that really worries you about his emotional state? I gather he took the divorce quite hard?

Dr Levang :

I wouldn't worry about that...most every child goes through a period of angst trying to find the meaning of life, trying to figure out their place in the world. I think it is far better to teach acceptance then rigidity or intolerance.

Customer:

I guess sometimes I just don't know where he's at. I tell my kids I trust their judgement until they give me cause to doubt it. Last weekend I caught him in a big lie about drinking underage. I found out from another mom

Dr Levang :

In the end, your children may become more resilient and feel better prepared for adult life then others.

Customer:

OK, well, I'll keep that in mind then. Do most parents feel like they know what they are doing?

Dr Levang :

Oops! I think it's important to remember that the adolescent brain is functioning at about 80%...While we used to thing that their brains were well developed by adolescence we have found out through MRI scans that they aren't. This means that risk taking is high with teens while decision making is still "under-construction".

Dr Levang :

I think a good share of parents would honestly say that the teen years are some of their hardest as parents. There are so many pressures on kids and kids are just not mature enough to handle these pressures. So parents end up shaking their heads and trying to make sense of the chaos.

Dr Levang :

There is no easy road-map for parents during these years.

Dr Levang :

And...every child is so different!!

Dr Levang :

If you want to learn a bit more about the teen years there is a wonderful audio tape by Jim Fay called Hormones on Wheels. You can get it at: www.loveandlogic.com

Customer:

When he admitted to having started drinking this past New Year's, he said he did it to relax. Before this, he always told me he wasn't drinking. When drinking doesn't relax him, will he start taking drugs?

Customer:

Ok thanks, XXXXX XXXXX out that resource. The more I can understand the better.

Dr Levang :

I don't think you can make a prediction about that. It's a big leap...and certainly there are some kids who do move from alcohol use to drug use/abuse. But that is not the majority of kids.

Dr Levang :

Is alcohol legal for him? I'm not sure what province you live in and what the applicable laws are.

Customer:

OK, well, we opened the communication links last weekend, so we'll build on that.

Dr Levang :

That website has some wonderful parent tips as well.

Dr Levang :

Yes...very good...use that opening to keep the conversation going. Also remember that kids often have limited attention spans and so it might be better to have a series of short discussions rather than one big long sit down.

Customer:

We're in Manitoba. He should be 18. He's not even sure who has been supplying the alcohol. An entirely different conversation

Dr Levang :

The first step as I said is you taking responsibility for your own actions. That will set the stage. He may be furious with you...which is reasonable...but just let him blow off his steam. The best thing you can do is to say...I hear how angry you are with me for violating your privacy. I can see that you are angry. If you validate him in this way, then he will feel "seen" and that's what he wants...to know that you are with him and that you are not rejecting his feelings. Don't get mad back, argue or fight. Let him have his say and just keep validating his feelings.

Dr Levang :

Does this make sense?

Dr Levang :

Yes...his use of alcohol is for a different day...so I won't comment on that.

Customer:

Yup. God knows, my parents never saw me, no matter what I did. He knows that much about my background.

Dr Levang :

So you understand! Good. You don't need to defend what you did. You are the parent. He is the child. End of story. But..you did something you are not proud of and he needs to hear that part.

Customer:

OK. I have to go now. This is exhausting. Thanks for your support. Would I be able to connect with you specifically on this again if I wanted to?

Dr Levang :

Yes. When you post another question, just put my name in the opening line and then it comes right to me. I would be glad to help you.

Dr Levang :

I understand the exhaustion...whew!

Customer:

:)

Dr Levang :

When you are ready to end, please press the green accept button and this chat will end.

Customer:

Goodnight

Dr. L and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Hello,
I just wanted to check in and see if you were able to talk to your son and how things are going.
Dr. Levang