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Indian-American Families and Sexuality

One of the most fraught issues for Indian-American parents is dealing with dating and sexuality, especially when it comes to their teenage children. The cultural context in which the parents grew up is likely to have been far more conservative than the one in which they are raising their children. Thus, parents are often extremely uncomfortable at the idea of their kids even dating, let alone being sexually active.

While this is a challenge for all children, adopted teenagers can be particularly vulnerable. An article by the North American Council of Adoptable Children elaborates on this phenomenon, “At the core of these young people’s vulnerability is the feeling of having been abandoned or the perceived absence of love and value from their biological family. Young people with this trauma typically manifest these insecurities in a fervent drive to be affirmed and find stability through romantic partnerships.”

Often, these relationships may not be healthy, with the adopted teenager being far too willing to trust or change themselves to please a partner.

Adoptive parents often struggle with how to deal with this behavior. They may want to put a complete stop to it; however, that may only push the behavior underground with the child sneaking opportunities for sexual encounters. Parents have to struggle with the challenge of keeping their child safe, while not appearing to condone or promote such behavior. This effects decisions, such as getting their son vaccinated for HPV or getting their daughter birth control.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Recognize the child is growing up in a very different cultural context than you did, one in which dating and even being sexually active as young adults is considered normal and healthy.
  • Communicate your beliefs, values and preferences clearly.
  • Try to cultivate a relationship in which your child feels able to share emotional challenges they are facing.
  • Discuss the elements of a healthy relationships and how to recognize if their relationship isn’t healthy or respectful.
  • If you think your teen is becoming sexually active, talk about sexual health, reproduction and consent.
  • If you do decide that safety is paramount and that your young daughter should get birth control or your young son should buy condoms, definitely talk to them about self esteem and self care in relationships.
  • If you are trying to encourage your child to confide in you and seek your support to deal with his/her challenges, be aware that you might hear things you would rather not know.

Resources

  1. “Relationships and sexuality” (nacac.org)
  2. “Parenting children or youth who are sexually reactive” (nacac.org)

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