When we began our academic career, way back when, our educators made sure they covered all the important topics: math, science, social studies, and language skills. And, just to be sure we were well-rounded, they even threw in physical education and music! But, what about everything else? Like the weird-awkward-growing-up-stuff? Those things that nobody talks about? Like relationships! How and where are teens today learning about healthy dating relationships? Are your teens able to answer questions like: What does a good, healthy relationship look like? Who should I be in a relationship with? When should I start dating? What are healthy sexual behaviors?
A few places where teens learn about “healthy relationships”:
- parents and other family members
- friends at school or in their community
- media (TV, movies, and books)
- they take a school or community-based class entitled “Dating Relationships 101” *
* Just kidding, those classes do not usually exist. But, don’t worry. You exist! And you are able to help your kids better understand what a healthy relationship is and how to navigate dating relationships.
3 tips to foster good conversation on healthy teen dating relationships:
1) A quick, easy chat about the basics:
If you are a parent, and you have a teen, I suggest you ask your kid: “Hey, what do you think makes a good dating partner?”. Since, I already know your kid is a smarty, I bet s/he responds with something like, “good communication, respect and doesn’t cheat!”. But, then, follow-up with the harder question: “Okay, now, what does that mean? What does “good communication” actually look like?” It’s easy to list the good stuff. But, in day-to-day real life, it can be way harder to tell the difference between the good and the bad. Use examples from your own life. “Dad showed me that he was listening and cared about my concerns when he made sure to ask me how my big meeting at work went.” Or, “I had a feeling that my high school girlfriend didn’t trust me, because she was always investigating my every move, but she never talked to me about any of her concerns”. Giving them real life examples of what a healthy relationship looks like helps them to know what to look for in their own dating relationships.
2) A reminder: you choose your dating partner!
Sometimes teens forget that they have a choice when it comes to dating. Often times, kids want a boyfriend or girlfriend so badly, that they will deal with whatever is thrown their way. Remind your teen that ever since preschool, they have been allowed to pick and choose their own friends. If someone was mean on the playground, they did not have to be friends with them. If someone stole their lunch every day then nope, they did not have to invite them over for a play date. If they were friends with someone, but then that friend did something mean, they could decide to stop being friends altogether. It’s the same thing with dating relationships. You get to pick the very best dating partner for you. Just like you would not settle with a not so great friend, do not settle with a not so great dating partner. Remind your kid that s/he should expect to have the greatest dating partner ever. Because they deserve to!
3) Talking is key:
Remind your kiddo that nobody knows what they are doing all the time, particularly with relationships. We are all here trying to figure out this weird and complicated world of dating. Encourage your teen to talk to the people they trust when they have questions. Encourage conversations with their peers, and especially with their dating partners. We should all be talking about our concerns, our fears and our questions about dating! If your kid is worried that their dating partner is cheating, lying, doesn’t like them anymore, or anything else – encourage your kid to speak directly with him or her. Just as you would talk to your friends if they made you upset, worried you, or made you mad, you should and you can talk to your dating partners, too.
For more tips about healthy teen dating relationships, you can:
- Visit the following websites: Expect Respect Austin or Love is Respect
- Ask your teen’s school counselor for more tips and guidance
- Make an appointment at Austin Family Counseling