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Learning that your son is attracted to younger boys may seem frightening and overwhelming. You may be at a loss of what to say or do. You may feel that you don't know enough to deal with the situation.
You may feel alone in dealing with this situation, and believe you have no one to talk to. One of the goals of Age Taboo is to promote relationships among parents and other family members who are facing the same thing.

Many of your fears are probably due to a lack of knowledge and the stereotypes that are so prevalent. Therefore, another one of our goals is to provide information that can increase your understanding of the issues and your comfort level with the topic, and to dispel the myths surrounding attraction to younger boys.

We encourage you to read the information we've compiled here in order to become familiar with the facts and issues involved. All of it is based on the scientific literature on caring for sexual minority youth and on sexual attraction to younger boys. You may also wish to read our Mission and our Guiding Principles.

Your son may have many fears of his own: What kind of future does he have? What if people find out? How will they react?

If he told you about this on his own, it took tremendous courage on his part. That means he had tremendous trust in you. He gave you the gift of telling you something very personal about himself.

Whether he told you on his own or you found out some other way, he may have been agonizing over this for some time, fearing what your reaction would be. Now you have the opportunity to be closer to him than before, and to let him know how deeply you care about him.

There are several things you can do to help your loved one deal with his sexuality, and society's reaction to it.

Provide support and acceptance. Let him know you care about him, love him, and will listen to him. Validation by straight adults helps adolescents eliminate internalized negative images and misperceptions.

Learn about and discuss sexual identity issues with him. Assure him that struggling with sexual identity issues is normal, especially for sexual minority youth. Discuss the issue of disclosing his sexuality to others. Talk about the risks and benefits, whether the benefits outweigh the risks, and who it may be safe to tell (if anyone). If "coming out" seems like a good idea, discuss when and how to do it.

Counter the myths, stereotypes, and negative perceptions by reading the facts here and elsewhere, and discussing them with him. Stereotypes have a damaging effect on self-concept, behavior, and life options.

Encourage and help him use healthy methods to manage stigma, isolation, and self-esteem. Help him find support groups of accepting people--both peers and adults. Such groups provide a buffer against harassment and rejection and are necessary for self-acceptance and social development. Help him find reliable information about his sexuality. Be aware that without healthy ways of managing stigma and isolation, many youth turn to substance abuse or other self-destructive behavior.

Discuss and seek adult role models who are understanding and accepting. They can model healthy behavior and relationships, and provide guidance in career and life options. This is a touchy subject because on the one hand, it seems especially scary to get to know other people who have a similar sexuality. On the other hand, it can be especially helpful to find such a person whom you trust, who is a good example of responsible living, who has integrity, and who has developed a fulfilling way of living with his sexuality. Such a person can assist him in identity development and consolidation, and help him learn about options for close relationships. If you feel comfortable with the idea, you and he may be able to get to know such a person through Age Taboo.

Learn about stressors that may affect his mental health, and discuss them with him. Help him to understand that there is no evidence for the idea that sexual attraction to boys is connected to psychopathology or any particular personality disorder. Keep the lines of communication open, and encourage him to talk to you if he is thinking about suicide.

Discuss responsible sexual behavior, and the difference between sexual identity and sexual behavior. Compassionately discuss the need to control one's sexual behavior, and to not act in ways that would harm another person. Talk about ways in which younger or weaker people may go along with a sexual activity even though they may really not want to, and the serious legal consequences of acting sexually with someone significantly younger.

Adapted from Caitlin Ryan & Donna Futterman, Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care & Counseling, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

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