Teen Dating & Relationships
When it comes to the high school years, that’s when these feelings tend to bloom. Do you have teenagers who are starting to date? What are some steps you can take to educate them on dating safely? What kinds of rules should you set as a parent? These are common questions that parents have as their kids start to evolve into adults. Here are some things to consider…
Is your teen dating ready?
It’s your prerogative as a parent to decide at what age your teenager is allowed to date. But it’s also perfectly acceptable to decide on a case-by-case basis there is no “right” age when your teen will magically be ready. Consider how your teen handles friendships, emotions, challenges in relationships, and responsibility, as well as their overall maturity level. Are they able to be honest with you, even when it’s difficult? Can they stand up for themselves? If you’re not comfortable with your teenager dating, encourage them to invite peers they are interested in to your home; or to hang out with them in a group, as friends. Then make an agreement to revisit the topic at a later time.
Defining a “healthy relationship”
A teenager dealing with puberty, school, friendships, sports, and other major distractions probably hasn’t given much thought to what makes a healthy relationship so it’s up to you to begin the conversation. Take a curious, open approach: Try to ask more questions and listen more than you talk. Ask your teen how he or she would like to be treated by a significant other, and how they think they would feel and behave in a healthy relationship. Share some of your own teen dating experiences and the lessons you’ve learned. Revisit the conversation regularly, and make sure your teen knows he or she can be honest with you, no matter what.
Set clear parameters
If you do decide to let your teenager date, set limits regarding acceptable behavior. Discuss when and under what circumstances they are allowed to be alone with the other person; how much time is acceptable to spend together (both online and in person); and what kind of activities are allowed. Finally, explain what the consequences will be if your teenager breaks the rules.
Review “red flag” behavior
Before teen dating starts, make sure they know what constitutes “red flag” behavior and the warning signs of an abusive relationship. These include controlling and manipulating behavior, excessive jealousy, putting down the other person, unwanted sexual advances and of course, any kind of physical abuse. In addition, teach your teenager to pay attention to their instinct and, if something doesn’t feel good or right to them, to exit the situation.
Don’t make assumptions about gender
Whether your teenager is a boy or a girl, don’t assume they’ve got it all figured out, or that you can skip over certain parts of the process. Both young men and women need guidance, direction, and a safe place to land, whether they’re riding the waves of first love, or drowning in the tears of a broken heart.