Valentine's Day is a special time for people all over the country to make arrangements with their loved ones, and if you have a teenager in the house, you may find yourself dealing with a whole new set of challenges to accompany the romance.
Since February also represents Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, NCU wants to take the opportunity to impart some helpful wisdom from the Marriage and Family Therapy program on safe and responsible dating tips for parents with teens.
Of course, it can be difficult to talk with your adolescent about sensitive issues, but these 5 tips can allow you to gain some insight without disrupting barriers of trust and privacy. Here's what you need to know:
1. It's Okay to Talk to Your Teen About Dating
One of the biggest worries that parents have is that talking to their teen about sensitive issues, like dating and sexual activity, may set off a negative response. Although there may be a bit of awkwardness to work through, teens who are given a chance to express their personal feelings towards dating are far better off than those who aren't.
You can discuss anything from how to treat someone during a date to how they should act around other parents and make a good impression. Plus, you can set some ground rules about intimacy and establish safe practices for them to implement at all times. Remember, creating open lines of communication will prepare them for a wide variety of situations, so try your best to be accessible and leave them feeling more confident as they learn and navigate their own relationships.
2. Teach Your Teens Respectful Behavior
It's one thing to show politeness with others, but more important, parents must teach their teens how to avoid inappropriate behavior and maintain respect when out on a date. For example, try to encourage your teen to stay away from activities or events that promote sexual stimulation or dangerous activities, like drinking and drug use. A lot of what teens do for fun may depend on their age, but promoting activities that remove pressure and focus on building a connection will be better for their development.
Something else to consider in terms of respect is how your teen speaks to their date or responds to their comments. Regardless of what gender your teen is, helping them understand the signs of manipulative behavior or language from their partner will prevent them from possible harm. The same goes for their behavior toward someone else, too! A healthy relationship is one that allows each person to grow without being caught in another's shadow, so if you recognize any signs of them being overpowered or manipulated in any way, it may be time to share your concerns.
3. Encourage Your Teen to Start Slow
It's inevitable for teens to date, so rather than trying to stop it, you should embrace the reality that your adolescent is maturing. With that in mind, there's no need for your teen to rush into anything serious, so encourage them to take things slow with a new date and enjoy the process of learning about someone new.
Teens who move too quickly in a relationship or spend too much time with a new date could wind up dealing with a myriad of issues if they're not careful. Fast-paced relationships may lead to instances of emotional stress, detachment from school work and other friends, or harmful sexual activity. You want your teen to develop at a healthy pace, so explain to them the challenges, but also lend your approval.
4. Give Your Teen Some Privacy
It's your job as a parent to know what's going on in your teen's life, but to some degree, you must offer them privacy and allow them to handle situations on their own. Now this doesn't mean you take a completely hands-off approach, but you should put some distance between you and their ability to figure out things for themselves.
If they're having a conversation on the phone with a new date, having a fight, or planning to meet up with a group of friends after school, it's okay if you don't know all the details all the time. Instead, enforce that your teen checks in with a call or text message every so often when they're out or simply ask them how their date went when they get home. Your teen will be more likely to share things with you if they feel trusted, which means you need to trust them.
5. Meet Your Teen's Date Beforehand
Your teen may get slightly embarrassed, but as a rule of thumb, make sure to always meet their date before they start going out. Doing this will ensure that your teen isn't putting themselves in harm's way or going out with someone who is too old. Not to mention, you can get a general feel for that person and the kind of impression they'll make on your adolescent.
When your teen's date comes to the house, invite them inside and chat for a few minutes. Ask them about where they grew up, what they like to do, what their plans are for the date; anything you can think of without it becoming an interrogation. Once you feel that your expectations for your teen are communicated to them, you'll be able to rest somewhat easier while they're out.
NCU is Here to Support You and Your Teen
There is no formula to predict when your teen will start dating, but you can take precautions and support them with sound, professional guidance. NCU is here to help! Our Marriage and Family Therapy programs offer students many ways to assist individuals, couples, and families with navigating the natural stressors and unexpected challenges of life.