Few things create a more dramatic effect in a young person's life then the highs and lows of dating and relationships. In the world of social media and reality TV, how can your teen sort through the mixed messages portrayed in the media and the behavior of peers to measure his or her own experience in exploring new relationships?
As a parent, it's your job to talk with your teen and help him or her establish healthy and realistic relationship expectations during youth. Taking time to discuss these things now will help them navigate through early dating life as well as in the future when they eventually choose a spouse. To help you out as you plan your discussion, I've provided a few discussion points to guide an effective conversation.
1. Mature relationships come with age
Naturally, your teen will think he or she has it all figured out. Help them understand that dating as a teen should be a fun learning experience, not a time-consuming activity that takes away from friends, family or schoolwork.
According to Education.com, "Some believe a teen first needs to form an identity and know who she or he is before developing a healthy intimate relationship. Other experts feel that romantic relationships are a way for teens to learn more about themselves." In other words, every parent's outlook on dating will be different - and that's OK. However, no matter which side your parenting style agrees with, it's important to discuss the importance of maturity in establishing healthy relationships with your teen. More mature relationships will develop naturally as your teen gets older.
2. Media aren't usually an accurate guide
Although some media outlets like The Mindy Project and New Girl are touted for their adorable onscreen romances, the truth is most of these shows don't offer up a realistic representation of healthy relationships for teens. Although they may not instill the potentially detrimental relationship values of highly criticized works like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, they're unrealistic for teen relationships.
Talk with your teen about the important differences between relationships in the media and real-life. Although a wildly passionate relationship may seem like the norm in movies and in their Instagram feeds, taking things slowly and maintaining life balance are crucial components in building healthy relationships as a teen.
3. Respect isn't an option - it's a must
Respect is one of the most critical discussion points on this list. It is important that you teach your teen to both command respect for him or herself and give respect to others while dating. TeenRelationships.org provides a fantastic description for this. According to the educational site, respect means, "You value each other as you are. Culture, beliefs, opinions and boundaries are valued. You treat each other in a way that demonstrates the high esteem you hold for one another."
Share this definition with your teen then talk about what respect means to him or her. How should your teen conduct him or herself to show respect toward future dates? How can he or she set firm dating values to make sure future dates will respect him or her as well? This will be an ongoing and ever evolving subject, so make sure your teen feels comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns later on.
4. Being single doesn't mean being alone
Teens see their social media feeds filled with cute couples all day every day. Naturally, this can make any single person feel a bit lonely or out of place. Reminding your teen that now is his or her time to be with friends and family will be key to helping him or her realize that being single doesn't mean being alone. In fact, teen years are the perfect moment in a person's life to enjoy a little freedom and spend time building quality friendships while focusing on school work and nurturing individual talents through extracurricular activities.
Starting the discussion
Hopefully, these four critical discussion points have helped you come up with a base for your conversation with your teen on dating. If you have the time, it would also be worthwhile to check out the resources provided in the post like Education.com and TeenRelationships.org for additional info and insights.