Parenting Q & A- Sexual orientation, riding bikes and self-concept

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: June 27, 2010 | Topic: Questions from readers

Is it best to wait for a teen to discuss their sexual orientation with you as a parent, or to ask the teen about their orientation if you wonder if it may be the source of stress or depression for the child? If so, what is the best way to broach the subject with the teen?

Helping teens deal with sexual issues is one of the most important responsibilities we have as parents. Many parents are challenged as to how best to approach this sensitive topic. Begin with a discussion of safe sexual practices, age-appropriate sexual behavior and your own moral values. It would then be appropriate to bring up the issue of sexual orientation. Your message should be that people differ in their sexual orientation and that homosexuality is not any type of mental disorder. Emphasize the need to be respectful of people whose sexual practices may be different than your own. If you have any indication that this may be an issue for your son, make certain that he realizes that he will be loved and valued by you irrespective of his sexual preferences. You need to be guided by the reaction of your teen regarding this issue. Your comments may result in discussion, denial or silence. Try to end the conversation on a positive note, emphasizing your availability for continued discussions.

My 7 year old daughter wants to ride her bike alone. I'm not comfortable with this but is she old enough for me to start giving her this freedom?

The answer depends more upon the maturity and overall responsibility of your daughter, not simply her chronological age. There is also the consideration of the safety of your neighborhood. It would not be unusual for a 7-year-old to be riding her bike alone in most neighborhoods. However, you should set some very clear limits on where she would be allowed to ride and how often she would need to check in with you. Initially, start off slowly. Limit the amount of time that your daughter can ride her bike, gradually increasing that time as she demonstrates compliance with your rules.

Will changing a child's self-concept change his/her behavior completely?

The real way to change the way a child feels about himself is to first change the way he acts. As a child’s behavior improves, then his self-concept will change. It will do little good to tell a child how great he is in sports unless the youngster sees himself being successful playing athletics. The same holds true for a youngster’s academic ability. Don’t tell you child how smart he is. Instead, help him do better in school and then comment on his improved performance. There has been too much attention focused on helping youngsters feel good about themselves rather than behaving appropriately. Focus on the latter and you will undoubtedly improve the former.

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Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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