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‘I’m worried about my 16-year-old son and his abhorrent, right-wing views’

Tell Me About It: ‘We are horrified with some of the things he has said about refugees’


I am worried about my 16-year-old son. We have never had any concerns about him, except for some issues in primary school when he had a delay in learning to read and write.

He is a middle child, and we have a very happy family life. Last year, during a parent-teacher meeting, my husband and I were informed that one or two teachers had noticed that our son was unfriendly towards boys in his school who identified as gay, bisexual or trans. They said that they never heard him say anything homophobic or transphobic, but that his general manner towards these young people was unpleasant. We spoke to him briefly about this and he said that he had nothing against LGBTQ people but there were just some people in his school who he didn’t like, because of their personalities and not because of their sexuality or gender.

His father was keen for us not to make a fuss about it, but I spent a lot of time talking with him about bullying and the importance of inclusivity. The feedback from the most recent meeting with teachers was quite positive and there was no further mention of this issue. However, during our summer holiday just gone, when we were having family time together, he started debating with myself and my husband about the rights of immigrants and refugees to be in this country. We were horrified with some of the things he said. I checked his internet history and I saw that he has been looking at a lot of right-wing material and has been posting abhorrent comments on social media. I really do not know where this attitude has come from, he has certainly never heard anything like this at home.

We do everything we possibly can to raise our children to be as rounded as they can possibly be, we are also hopeful that they will be free thinkers. But I do not know if we can tolerate this mindset and the risk that it poses to our other children.



Given that your son has not picked up prejudices at home, it is worth investigating where his views and strong opinions come from and what these serve in his life. You say he is a middle child so you have an older child who might be able to point to some issues or concerns and who may be able to indicate what influences are impacting on their brother’s life.

The question arises as to why your son feels so insecure that he needs to negate other people, especially when he has not been subjected to any particularly oppressive experiences himself. That he focuses on gender and sexual orientation is also worth noting. Have you, or your husband, had conversations about his own sexuality and gender, or does he have someone else to relate to about these things? It may be that he would find it particularly difficult to talk to his parents about these sensitive things, so you may need to find someone that he trusts to engage with him.

His school and teachers may be able to offer some insights and they may have a list of recommended counsellors for young people, should this arise as a possibility. As parents, you still have a strong role to play in your son’s life and you and your husband may need some professional advice to support you in the task ahead. The danger is that your abhorrence and annoyance might cut off any trust your son may have in telling you of his opinions and actions. This does not mean that you allow the behaviour to continue, but managing your emotions might allow you to challenge the behaviour while conveying your ongoing support for your son.

You may have to take away his internet connections and smartphone outside of family hours – this would mean that he cannot post while alone in his room. You may also need to take action on inappropriate social media comments – he will need to take these down if he is to continue to get privileges at home. However, this should not just be a deterrent focused approach and if possible, you should reward any good behaviour with lots of attention and approval. At 16, your son’s character is still in development and if he feels understood and engaged with, he may be willing to open up about what is triggering these biases.

So, a firm but supportive response is required from you, and this may need to last a long time. Initially, seek professional support for you and your husband: make sure that the psychotherapist/psychologist has some experience in social media (do this by typing this in to the speciality section of the professional website, or Your son may need to engage himself with a professional and if he knows that his parents are seeking this type of help, it may help that he is told this, together with the confidentiality and voluntary clause that is the basis of most psychotherapy.

Clarity on the unacceptability of his continuing behaviour is needed and the consequences of same, but also you need to portray your genuine concern and belief that this is not his core self and that you are there for the long haul with him.