Women’s Conference: Discussing tough topics with teens

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High school teacher Julie Gowans and Alex Jensen, BYU School of Family Life assistant professor, said parents who have unconditional love for their teenagers find it easier to discuss difficult topics such as chastity, depression and sexuality, at Women’s Conference on May 4, 2018.

“Ask yourself: what if my son or daughter comes to me and tells me blank? Tells me they are pregnant, tells me they have feelings of homosexuality, tells me they don’t want to serve a mission? Will you still love them? The answer should be ‘yes,’ and if it’s yes then they need to know that,” Gowans said.

Josh Carter
A BYU Women’s Conference audience fills the Wilkinson Center ballroom on May 3, 2018. (Josh Carter)

Listening to and allowing children to exercise their agency and turning to the Lord were some of the main themes Gowans and Jensen addressed.

In order for teenagers to know they can be open and honest when coming to their parents with a difficult question, parents must be willing to listen, according to Gowans and Jensen. This builds a foundation of trust that will help teenagers feel safe and loved no matter what they may be going through.

Sometimes it is hard to ignore the impulse to react negatively when a child approaches a parent with a specific concern. However, the speakers promised that if parents take a step back and listen, their hearts will be softened, and they will know exactly what to do to help.

“If teenagers are able to learn to contemplate the consequences of their choices now and what that means for their future, hopefully, they will make better choices,” Jensen said.

Teenagers can develop this pattern of thought best during those teenage years with the help and support from their parents, according to Jensen. Mistakes can turn into valuable learning opportunities that can promote change and growth. When teenagers commit various mistakes throughout their lives, as long as parents have that unconditional love, they will provide an environment where their family can be unified.

Gowans explained this concept through a story: her friend’s teenage daughter confessed she was pregnant. Although saddened by the news, her friend (the mom) knew just what to say to comfort her daughter through listening to the Spirit.

Through the Spirit, parents can be guided in helping their teenagers regardless of the situation. As long as parents are praying, fasting and studying the scriptures, Gowans promised they would have access to such personal revelation.

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