For many parents, few things inspire fear like their teen starting to date—and it’s no wonder. From broken hearts to high-risk relationships, the scare factor is through the roof. The good news, however, is that you can set a solid foundation that gives your teen the right tools to date responsibly. Check out these tried-and-true tips to talk dating with your teen.
As soon as your teen shows the first glimmer of interest in dating (maybe he or she posted something on Facebook, mentioned friends dating or has even asked you a direct question), it’s time to open the dating-conversation floodgates.
If you’re thinking that one perfectly timed, perfectly themed conversation will do the trick, think again. Truly getting through to your teen means having many conversations over many years. So look for opportunities to initiate conversations about dating in everyday life—use anything from a news story or a scene on TV to a real-life scenario to spark a conversation.
Broaching the subject of dating with your teen is only half the battle. Keeping the conversation flowing is the real key to success. Getting past the eye rolling, blatant disinterest and flat out refusal to engage can seem daunting, but don’t give up!
If you come across as uptight, upset or angry, you can kiss the conversation goodbye. Even a hint of a lecture will have your teen tuned out in a hot second. You’ll also need to set a supportive tone. This means approaching the conversation in a calm, non-obtrusive manner and respecting your teen’s independence, views and beliefs.
It’s also important to avoid making assumptions about your teen. For example, use gender-inclusive language, meaning don’t assume your teen has a preference for the opposite sex.
In order for your teen to build healthy relationships, he or she needs to know what healthy relationships are like. As a parent, it’s up to you to tell them. So explain the elements of a healthy relationship—things like how to build trust over time and how to show respect and support in a mature relationship.
Help your teen understand that a healthy relationship means both partners maintain their interests and friendships outside of the relationship, and that both remain free to be themselves at all times.
On the flip side, it’s also important to teach your teen how to recognize a relationship that isn’t healthy (or is becoming abusive).
You can start by defining these different types of abuse:
Physical abuse—intentionally causing injury or trauma to another person.
Emotional abuse—verbally abusing, and continually criticizing, bullying or threatening your partner.
Sexual abuse—any non-consensual sexual contact.
Digital abuse—a type of emotional abuse that uses technology to harass, stalk or threaten your partner.
Next, discuss how abuse might show up in a relationship, and point out red flags to watch for, such as your partner:
– Criticising you or yelling at you
– Embarrassing you or putting you down in front of friends
– Constantly texting or calling you when you aren’t together
– Telling you who you can or can’t hang out with
– Pressuring or forcing you into sexual acts
As uncomfortable as it may be, talk realistically with your teen about sex (focusing on the facts rather than your own opinions). Make sure your teen is properly informed, but also give him or her the option to talk with someone else you both trust.
As difficult as it may be at times, try to listen as much as you talk. Actively listen and answer questions, and accept what your teen tells you. If you don’t believe what your teen says, he or she won’t be open to sharing with you.
Ultimately, your teen will make up his or her own mind when it comes to dating. However, consistently listening and maintaining open communication means your teen will be more likely to come to you for support when it matters. t8n