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you may have seen my other question, but if you have not, I am a hobbyist writer trying to get real parent's responses to questions that have come up about family dynamics in my writing. I am young (21), and have no kids, so I know little on the subject of parental reactions to situations.

My story has two younger characters (from separate families) who have issues with modesty. No, not the typical one where teens dress too skimpily, but the opposite extreme. One character is a young boy, and the other is a young girl, and they both have the same problem. Both are extraordinarily private, modest to the extreme.

The boy is Tracy from my other question, who is an Asexual/Aromatic teen. He manages to avoid most situations that it could become a problem (dressing for full coverage, never using communal showers, changing in the toilet stall...), but got into a loud and nearly physical altercation with his pediatrician when he hit puberty and the doctor needed to examine him.

The girl, named Yu Yan, did many of the same things that Tracy did, including dressing in plain and shapeless clothing. She also flunked sex ed three times due to not wanting to attend and proceeded to pretend that puberty wasn't happening when it hit, denuding herself into believing that if she ignored it, the pain and changes would go away. She was eventually diagnosed with Sexual Aversion Disorder.

So, my question is, how could a parent try to help in such a touchy and sensitive situation? Both sets of parents care very much about their children, and want to help.

EDIT: I have been cued into the fact that I did not specify the source of said issues. These issues in my story were not caused by abuse, assault, or learned behaviors-it's just a personality trait, and in Yu Yan's case, a psychiatric disorder that arose from said personality trait.

Thanks for any assistance.

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  • Are these behaviours in your story learned (for example from parents), the result of some form of trauma, just a personality trait, ...? Depending on the cause, ways to deal with it for the parents may differ greatly.
    – AsheraH
    Aug 21 '20 at 16:22
  • @AsheraH, these behaviors are a personality trait to Tracy and Yu Yan--they were never abused, never assaulted, and not taught these things. It's just who they are.
    – Jazzyamx
    Aug 21 '20 at 16:45
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If a real parent was asking how to help their real child with this problem, I would say that it's not the modesty/shyness that's a problem, it's the distress this trait causes the kids, and what it (possibly) says about their relationship with their own body. This is the answer I would give Tracy's parent (as I don't feel qualified to give advice for a psychiatric disorder).

Don't push or pressure your modest child to be someone he's not. Some people are shy, easily embarrassed, or simply private. This isn't an inherently bad trait, and outside of certain medical examinations, the expectation to be seen unclothed by others except when one specifically wants to (such as a romantic partner) basically disappears after adolescence. As an adult I'm pretty much able easily avoid situations that feel immodest other than in medical settings- the locker room, dance team, dorm washroom situations that made me uncomfortable in my youth just don't happen to me anymore.

I've also gotten more comfortable with my physical body just by maturing. The horrible outcome I expected as a teen (people thinking I was ugly/gross/funny) just isn't as much of an issue as an adult. I don't care as much about what people think of my appearance, and am more secure in knowing that there are people who like every possible body type or feature. As an adult I realize that's is fine and normal for some people to not find any given body attractive.

Focus on building up your child's resilience and self-acceptance. Encourage your self-conscious child to get involved in activities that gave them a sense of confidence and accomplishment, whatever that means to them: martial arts, debate club, orchestra. Support them emotionally and don't judge or ridicule their modest ways. Offer them the chance to see a therapist who has experience with teens if they are genuinely distressed by their modesty or anxiety related to their body.

Finally, maintain a "body positive" household. Don't permit mocking or shaming anyone's physical appearance, and even keep body-centric compliments to a minimum. Don't let anyone in the household become a vocal and obsessed dieter. (If dietary changes are needed for a health or other reason, incorporate this into a normal family mealtime, don't make it a major focus of family life or conversation, single out the dieter, comment on their body or what's on their plate, etc.) Encourage balance in the family's eating and activity habits. Encourage your child to value his body for all it does for him, from seeing the beauty of art, to participating in favorite sport activities, to being able to taste chocolate.

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