There are few topics more stressful for parents than teen dating. Perhaps it’s because parents find it difficult to let their teens gain independence or that they don’t want to see the inevitable heartbreak that may result. Another alternative is that parents fear that teens will use their heart instead of their head when making decisions, from daily communication to more serious actions.
If you are a parent with a dating age teen, you may be asking yourself, “How do I handle teen dating problems?” Here are 5 tips on how to help your teen with dating and understanding and handling any dating problems that come up.
- Talk about sex. It may be stressful but talking to your teen about sexuality and sex education is the number one thing you can do to head off dating problems. Your teen may need your support as he or she explores how they feel about sex, ways to resist pressure, safe sex practices, sexting and more. It’s not a one-time conversation, but rather an open communication that should expand and mature as your teen ages. Understanding sex and sexuality in a mature, healthy view is a key part of your teen getting through the teen dating years with ease.
- Be available. Your teen is likely having their first real relationships as they date, and chances are they want to talk to you about everything. Be available to listen and act as a sounding board for them to process what they are feeling and thinking.
- Avoid judging or criticism. Even if you want to jump in for your child’s sake, it’s better to take a more mature approach. Judging and criticizing will shut your teen down fast. While it’s OK to speak up if something is dangerous or harmful, you shouldn’t make negative comments just to get a rise out of your teen or to exert control.
- Teach thinking skills. Rather than tell your teen what you think, ask open ended questions, and ask your teen what they think about a topic. Guide the conversation to help your teen use critical thinking skills to assess and analyze dating, crushes, sex, breakups, peer pressure and more. Not only will your teen benefit in the dating arena by developing these skills, but in life.
- Use teaching moments. Whether it’s a news story, an event with a relative or something else, there are plenty of teaching moments that you can use to talk with your teen about dating. Talk about how things like emotional abuse, manipulation, pressure for sex and physical abuse or rape have no place in a healthy relationship. Your teen needs to know what to do in the event teen dating problems in the abstract become a reality.Showing your teen what healthy relationships look like, how to stand up for themselves, how to have legitimate, healthy fun and more are all important things your teen needs to overcome teen dating problems.
The more informed you and your teen are about the problems and troubles that teen dating can bring up, the more likely your teen is to enjoy dating and avoid the potential problems. Dating can be a big part of healthy social development and your teen needs you as a guide.