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Hello. I'm trying to learn about your community because my daughter
recently told me that she is a little. Well actually she told me she is a
switch, currently looking for a caregiver. I don't really know anything
about this, and want to be supportive if this is something that helps her.
I feel I should also mention she is only 14 years old. I understand if this
is something emotional for her, but I feel there should be rules because a
sexual relationship is not acceptable (or legal) at this time in her life.
What can I do to be supportive, and what should I be aware of? I don't know
where to go for help.
I think a somewhat passive parental acceptance is the best stance at this time after meeting this head-on initially through one very good, thorough conversation with your daughter. I would not discourage nor encourage the interest and would let her be interested in things like this she is interested in within healthy boundaries (such as making it clear you will not accept/tolerate sexual behavior if that’s your parenting stance; regardless of legalities, parents often offer their teenage children birth control for good cause). In a way, this is your child saying, "Hey, I want to start dating and having relationships like the people around my age do. I just want to use different titles for these things." It's up to you to determine where their boundaries fall on this, and investigate why your child feels this way at this point in her life.

At 14 years old, this very well could be a passing phase or trendy behavior for the teenager. Nobody can tell you for sure. I believe you should give her space to explore and develop her own interests, discovering her own personality, within reason and through resources that you agree to and approve of, monitor, and have access to use as well.

Teenagers have a difficult time as they transition from childhood to adulthood and feel the pressures of hormonal changes and peer acceptance. It is your place as a parent to set healthy, rational boundaries for her self-exploration and growth into adulthood. She may become bored or disinterested in these things within time or she may further solidify her identity within the community as she ages into an adult. Here are some ideas and points:

  • Children strictly prohibited from exploring something they find interesting may do so anyway through lying and manipulation. This makes it more difficult to be your child’s safety net. Try not to scare your child into keeping quiet about her interest in self-discovery.
  • Children may aggressively rebel if not permitted to explore at all. A smaller interest may grow into a major interest in effort to push boundaries and grasp a new personal sense of self apart from their parents.
  • Without clear boundaries set by a trusted parental figure, a child may find themselves in unsafe situations. It’s best to make boundaries clear upfront and reinforce that the boundaries being set are so that they can have good experiences safely. Suggest that boundaries can be negotiated and talked about to be changed later on as you both feel more comfortable in her self-exploration and safety measures being taken seriously. This is a good time to enact rules regarding things like curfews, acceptable locations for going on dates, emergency contact methods during dates, you meeting dates/partners, etc.
  • Blaming all bad experiences on one personal interest can be damaging to development into stable adulthood and a person’s confidence. This is not your parental scapegoat to run to when your child is unhappy, feels stressed, has a bad day, or experiences a break-up. Try not to correlate everything negative back to this specific interest. Your child is still a normal child.
  • Just the same, your teenager is a teenager. She's going to want to explore. She's going to experience peer pressure. She's going to want to test boundaries to know why they exist. These are normal behaviors and not directly related to her being a little. Just like a lot of teens do have s*x or try alcohol even though technically illegal, it does not mean that it is directly linked to other personal findings of self. Welcome to being the parent of a teen! ;) You'll get through it, I promise.
  • Bringing up the topic frequently, in excess, as a parent to a child may just encourage the behavior to grow beyond initial expectations. It may be best to have one good, clear, upbeat/positive/accepting conversation about it, exchanging information expectations and boundaries together, and then leave the door open for the child to come to you when they want/need to talk about it. Let your child know that you will do your best to educate yourself and be a good, healthy, stable resource for her to turn to when she has questions or just needs someone to talk to about these things too.
    • Yes, you should take in as much information about the Caregiver/little community as possible so that you can understand things your child may come to you about that involves it. It will also help you stay in the loop of warnings signs to potentially look out for or give you an idea of what to expect next as your child matures into a young adult.
  • You should not shame your child if she later discovers she was wrong. Do not dwell on her having misinterpreted herself during her teen years. A lot of teenagers go through phases where they are "punk" or "goth" but they later leave that behind as they mature into an adult, aging out of the trend. There's no reason to shame someone for having grown up!
  • It is extremely common for a human to temporarily regress to a life stage they have already experienced when transitioning into a new life stage. Even pediatricians see children display regressive behaviors when under stress or transitioning into a new stage. Parents are told that it is normal and to let their child grow and mature as they are comfortable. This applies to teenage years too! Again, this may be a natural phase that will naturally pass once settling into being a young adult.
  • Sometimes people grow, develop, and mature at different rates and it's difficult to deal with that when pressured to mature faster than peers. Let your child know that it's okay for her to be where she is in her life and that things she doesn't understand right now will become clearer as she gets older.
  • You still need to continue to monitor your child and their interactions in places online and offline. Her desire for self-discovery does not give her free-reign to magically become a 14-year-old-adult. She is not mentally or physically mature yet. Treat her as a teenager, not as your peer. Give her a reasonable amount of flexibility, understanding, privacy, and space but do not treat her as a mature equal. She still needs your guidance, direction, authority, and structure
    • Your child is maturing into an adult and you need to keep that in mind even though it isn't an overnight change. Some rules and boundaries should be up for discussion and alteration as she comes to you wanting to negotiate changes. Be open to these things within reasonable, safe limits and evaluate them individually. Knowing that she can come to her parent about a rule or boundary that she has outgrown should be something she does not fear. For example, your child may come to you and say her allowance is not enough to allow her to make small financial decisions when buying things she wants to consider buying. You have a few options here, including suggesting that when she turns old enough you will allow her to work a few hours and make her own money (a wonderfully great idea that will give her a little safe financial independence). Another example may be that she may ask for more time on the internet so that she can interact with long-distance partners and you may want to re-evaluate the time she's been given and if it can be increased or if it should stay the same for now. These are generally just normal, teenage things that parents have to do though!
    • TeenLittleSpace is the only "little site" with reliable informational resource online that allows a person to interact while they are under the biological age of 18. Your teen is absolutely welcome here. You should still be involved and ask your child where she learned about these things, how she came to her conclusion about being a little, what interests her about it all, and generally what she knows about other littles and people identifying as Caregivers in the community. Ask here specifically where you can go to learn about these things to get an idea of how she is finding her information too while suggesting she be with us here. This is probably your most important part of your conversation because it helps you discover where she's getting her information and if she's into parts of the internet she ought not be diving into just yet. It also gives you an idea of what exactly she means by identifying herself as a little and what exactly she wants by searching for a Caregiver partner.
  • This is not as hard, drastic, or scary as you may feel. Being a "little" is generally very tame compared to other things many teenagers are doing that are considered risky behaviors. I'm not saying that she will not fall into other concerning behaviors (she is a teen, after all), but I am saying that you don't need to spend all of your time and focus specifically on worrying about her wanting to be childish.
So, when sitting down and talking about rules and expectations for your daughter, here are some examples and ideas you may want to think about and draft up for her to go over with you (I do recommend you type them up and you both have a copy, go over them outloud together to determine if something needs to be altered or talked about more):

Rule Idea: you can have SOME “little things” (sippy cups, pacifiers, stuffed animals, etc) but you cannot have a room or wardrobe full of ONLY “little things” (sippy cups, pacifiers, stuffed animals, onesies, sleepers, footed pajamas, etc).

Rule Idea: you will not be given additional allowance or money specifically to buy “little things” (sippy cups, pacifiers, stuffed animals, etc) or “little clothes” (onesies, footed sleepers, bibs, etc) so spend your money carefully when choosing what you buy with it. We can talk about you getting a part-time job for a few hours when you're old enough so that you can buy what you'd like with your own money at that point too.

Rule Idea: "little things” and “little clothes” will stay inside your room, for the most part. You will not leave the house wearing only a onesie or in a way that you are not decently clothed. You will not walk around the house in only an adult-sized diaper or the equivalent to underwear. Your room should be your littlespace getaway and not the entire house or outside world.

Rule Idea: you’ll do your best to not let this interfere with school and homework. I still expect you to graduate on time and take your education seriously. If this gets in the way of your education then we will need to develop more rules to help you stay on target, and I don't think either of us want more rules! :)

Rule Idea: caregiver/little partners will be treated as boyfriends/girlfriends. Time with them will still be subject to curfews and normal date restrictions (like not being alone in your bedroom together with the door closed), and they should be within an appropriate age-range. I expect to meet them like I would any boyfriend/girlfriend you have! :)

Rule Idea: even if you’re interested in wearing adult diapers then a caregiver partner is not to change or disrobe you until you are 18 and older. A caregiver may not bathe you until you are 18. Even if it’s nonsexual to you, they are not welcome to see you nude or uncovered for any reason. Just the same, you are not to unclothe, bathe, or change a little partner.

Rule Idea: don't have conversation about s*x, fetishes, or kinks with anyone, even if they are your own age. Don't send photos of yourself unclothed or only in a diaper to other people even if they are your own age. I'm not allowing you to look at porn or anything like that just because I accept this about you. You're still my teenage daughter. If you feel like you might want to start having s*x then you and I are going to need to talk about that so that we can make sure you're protected from pregnancy. I'm too young to be a grandma! ;)
(Remember! Teenagers will be teenagers and sexual exploration is not necessarily directly related to being a little! Give a little understanding so your child will feel free to talk with you about their bodies, hormones, and desires before they get carried away and things are out of hand.)

Rule Idea: you are not to expose your younger brothers/sisters to this lifestyle choice you've made for yourself. Just like you deserve a chance to be yourself in full, they deserve the chance to learn about themselves without someone pressuring them to be different as they grow up too. I still expect you to be a big sister to your little brothers/sisters and treat them appropriately.

Rule Idea: you will only access "little" sites and content that I've approved of you visiting online so we're going to have to talk about where you're going right now. If it says it's 18+ then that needs to be followed.

There is so much to say about the community. There is a lot of variation, and a lot of growth going on within the community itself. I don't think even the most knowledgeable expert is going to be able to give you a quick overview of everything you actually need to know. You're going to need to spend some time--a lot of time--discovering this through various resources, including ones that your daughter is able to share so you can have her personal insight and opinions of what she perceives this all to be for her.

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