Searching for the right answer?
Children are allowed to be who they are and to search answers even when their values do not match yours.
Whether birth or fostered, children are in need of being allowed to explore and discover who they are. In fact, once children hit pre-teens it becomes one of their main goals, to become a person in their own right. This pulling away and becoming their own person can be difficult for families as families can take it as a rejection, but it is so important that they are allowed their time of discovery and exploration in order to become well balanced and strong adults (it is a very normal part of growing up).
How do we keep from rejecting who they are becoming, especially when it does not match up with our values? One way is to simply allow the exploration. At the minimum not rejecting their exploration is needed. At the minimum they don’t need jokes or rejection, but instead a non-judgemental acceptance of their exploration. You may not understand it or accept their choices, but they still must be allowed a safe place to express who they are.
Our goal though should be to do more than the minimum allows, and the next step in doing the best for your child is to then seek out more information. If your child is exploring their sexuality then seek out what that means (online and not by grilling your child). If they are examining religions different from yours, then find out more about that belief system so that you have a basis for what they are learning. Learning more will help you to find an understanding of what they are going through.
The next thing to do is to open up a safe space in your life to allow them to talk about their exploration. Be the person who can listen without judgement. Quietly listen and offer empathy, an ear without judgement. This is a great space to remember when to remain quiet and not the place for debate.
You can also seek out other supports for your child, safe spaces and groups for them to explore. It is better for you to find a safe space to give them their needed information than to say “I don’t know” and leave it up to them to find it. They may find their information from sources that are unsafe and or have the wrong information. If you can’t answer their questions it is very important you find a place that can.
It is possible to support your child and love them for who they are, allowing them to express themselves and experience who they want to be without judgement and without compromising your beliefs. Please remember that above all it is your job to let them become who they are and not who you are. Our goal should always be for the person in our care to become their best version of themselves, to do this we need to help them learn about who they are…even if it does not match our belief system and is very different from who you are.