For teens, a first relationship is exciting. However, we know that sometimes relationships can mean disappointment, broken hearts and even abuse. As a parent, teaching your child about healthy relationships is a good step to prepare them for the future. It’s never too early to talk about it!
Begin by asking questions to learn about what your teen already knows or thinks about relationships, such as “Are any of your friends dating? What kind of person would you want to date?”
It’s important to be open and honest with teens and give them space to express their own feelings and concerns. Start the conversation by discussing the elements of a healthy relationship:
Freedom to Be Yourself
Tell your teen that they should feel comfortable expressing who they are. This means spending time with the people they like, dressing in ways that they choose, and participating in the activities that make them happy.
Both people in the partnership should speak to each other respectfully. Partners should avoid put-downs, even in the heat of a disagreement.
While the green-eyed monster is sometimes mistaken for caring, a good partner doesn’t make their partner feel guilty for spending time with family or friends instead of them.
In a healthy relationship, partners offer a listening ear and encouragement for their significant other’s ideas and aspirations. In bad times, a partner can be the one to turn to for comfort.
While sharing can be a good thing between a couple, being someone’s partner doesn’t require a person to open up every aspect of their life. Partners are still allowed their privacy, which means they don’t have to share their passwords or their call/text history.
Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. A couple should talk about what they’re comfortable with — how often will they see each other, how far do they want to go physically, etc.
Trust and honesty are key foundations to a healthy relationship. Both partners should be able to talk about feelings openly without fearing negative consequences. Partners should be able to discuss serious matters safely face-to-face and find the right time to do so. Compromise is often part of a healthy relationship.
By starting a conversation about healthy dating with your children now, they are more likely to feel comfortable coming to you in the future when they need to talk. If you suspect that your teen may currently be experiencing dating abuse in their relationship, read about how you can help and resources you can pass along.