Talking to teens about dating can be hard– but it doesn’t have to be.
Many parents view raising a teenager as one of the hardest challenges that parenthood brings. Behavioral and social changes bring new dynamics to the relationship between a parent and their child. Dating is one of the most significant of these changes, marking a clear departure from childhood into adolescence.
Parents often feel stuck when their children begin to explore dating, unsure of which conversations to have or how to proceed. Approaching your teen about dating does not have to be daunting. In this post, we’ll break down some of the most effective tips for having these conversations.
Start With Validation
Begin by validating your teen’s experiences in their current stage of life and their potential interest in dating. Ask questions and show genuine interest in your teen’s experiences and feelings.
Dating is a normal part of development, and teens should not be shamed for being curious. Passing shame or judgement onto a teen may deter them from sharing important information with you, or seeking out your support in the future.
Talk About Healthy Relationships
Talk to your teen about what relationships they see in the world around them. Ask them to identify what makes a relationship healthy, and where they see this modeled around them.
Discuss the importance of a strong foundation for a healthy relationship. Even if your teen is not dating, this could be helpful information for their friendships.
Share information about building trust, having healthy boundaries, spending time both together and apart, respecting each other’s’ bodies and wishes, and having disagreements in a way that is not toxic. Remind your teen that healthy relationships are free from violence, coercion, control, and unwanted contact, especially unwanted sexual advances.
Be a Relationship Role Model
One of the best ways to teach your children about healthy relationships is to model them yourself!
Relationship modeling begins at the same time as parenthood. It is the responsibility of parents to model healthy relationships for their children.
Children absorb and internalize far more than we may realize. Consider how your actions, words, and ideas have influenced or impacted your children and continue to be mindful moving forward.
Get on the Same Page
Having conversations about dating with your teen is most effective before they actually begin to date.
Work with your teen to come up with a game plan for dating.
Things to consider include:
- Where will they spend time with their partner?
- Who will they notify about where they are going?
- What will their curfew be? Will curfew be different on the weekends?
- How soon would you like to meet their partner’s parents?
- What word or phrase could your teen use to convey that they are in a potentially dangerous situation or feel uncomfortable?
- How will your teen approach difficult or uncomfortable situations with their partner? Do they feel ready to handle potential disagreements?
- How much privacy and independence does your teen want as they begin dating? Are there any compromises that need to be made?
Keep Communication Open
Remind your teen that they can always come to you with questions or concerns. Keeping communication open will allow your teen to feel supported as they begin to navigate this new phase of life.
Check in with your teen periodically. Ask them how they are doing regularly, and if they are dating, ask how the relationship is going.
Watching your children become teenagers is not easy. Even as you work to embrace this new chapter of their lives, it is natural for fear to arise. Through it all, remember that you are a capable parent and you have an enormous amount of potential when setting your children up for success.