Although their peers could have a major influence, it is the parents and families who should have the final say in a teens dating life
It is families, who can either provide support or add stress to their teenage lives. Teenage girls who are involved in dating and are surrounded by domestic violence at home (in other words, who watch their parents continually fighting) are likely to have a low self esteem as a result of this violence. Then there are those girls who begin dating early and who have strict and emotionally distant parents are likely to be depressed.
This just goes to show how families can be a great support to their teens dating lives. Surveys show that teenage girls with warm, strong relationships with their mothers and who were not involved in steady dating ended up with higher grades than their romantically involved classmates
Ways to Discuss Dating with Teens
Parents can use their knowledge in the pitfalls of dating during the teen years, to discuss dating with youngsters. Some suggestions on how to reach out and communicate with teens about dating are mentioned below:
• The most important issue here is that you ought to make sure that you are building a caring and supportive relationship with your teen. In other words, this relationship will serve as a role model for the relationships that she or he will have with friends and future romantic partners.
• It is obvious that when your teenager feels loved and supported, the chances are that it will open the lines of communication and trust.
• It is important to build and preserve this trust. Just remember that it will take a long time to regain any lost trust. The moment you lose the teens’ trust, it will take a lot of effort to rebuild those channels of communication.
• Explain to them the biological, social, and emotional changes that are taking place in their system during adolescence. It is obvious that teenagers are interested in knowing about maturity (growth spurts and the male and female biological differences) and they enjoy applying this information to real life.
• Sit down and talk with them and take time out to find out about information on your teen’s friends and schedule of daily events through their conversation. This is a great way to learn about their network as well as what is important to them and their friends.
• Tease your teen with tentative, open-ended questions about potential romantic interests. Use casual but active listening methods. Avoid forcing the issue, if it embarrasses them.
• Another important issue is to take care to not to embarrass your teen by expressing information that they share with you in confidence.
• Make a point to discussing your own relationship and experiences with your teen. Try and differentiate a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. If you happen to be in a significantly strong relationship, try and let it serve as a role model for a healthy relationship behavior to your youngster.
• Just remember that talking about romantic relationships with preteens or early adolescents will not make them more likely to date.
• Try and clear any relationship myths that they may have been exposed to by their colleagues or the media, by exposing your early adolescent relationship situations
• Ask your teen to think carefully about dating and whether they feel pressured to date; whether they know what dating should be like and try and share what you know about the research in a caring and casual way.
• Try and watch with them their favorite television programs, particularly those that involve teens having romantic relationships. Refrain from commenting during the show and take time for discussion after the show is over. (For example ask your teen, “How might that situation really end up?”, “What is healthy/unhealthy about this relationship?”, or “What overall message do you get from this episode about teen relationships?”).
• Share with your teen the advantages of dating later in adolescence so as to date with an optimistic attitude.
• Be willing to support your older teen’s efforts to date, unless there appears to be a threat of psychological or physical harm.
• Another point to remember is that your teen’s identity as well as sexuality are still being formed and as a result may be fragile. Avoid letting your values dictate your teen’s sexual identity. Sexual minority (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) youth usually face much confusion and difficulty during this time and need their parents support.
• Inform your teen about the rules (and consequences) you’ve set on dating and why—the appropriate age, age of partner, curfews, who they’ll be with, and contact information. Make sure to follow through with expectations and consequences.
• Pay attention to the “double standard.” Do you set different dating rules for your son and your daughter? For example, even though your early maturing 14-year-old son appears more confident and ready to date exclusively than his slightly older teenage sister, he still faces the risks of early dating (risk behaviors & poor academic performance).
• Have positive ways to handle family conflict.
• Be flexible and willing to listen to your teen’s viewpoint and negotiate, without giving up your parental authority. Being too strict may lead teens to rebel by making poor dating choices or engaging in other risky behaviors.
• Encourage your young adolescent (13-15 years old) to go on group dates without your direct supervision (however, trustworthy adults should be present) such as a movie matinee, cultural/educational events, mall-shopping, a theme park visit, an outdoor activity, or a field trip.
Overall, it’s important to:
Provide a safe and secure base for your teen to communicate with you openly about their dating relationships and guide your teen with frank questions to think about their own expectations and values in their relationships. Lastly also try and share your own wisdom about relationships with your teen.