Talking to your teen about dating relationships can sometimes be tricky! It is a deeply personal and familial decision to set limits on how and when your child can date and who they can date, but the reality that we find in working with adolescents in the classroom is that they ARE dating, even when they say my parents have told me that I can’t. So, gathering years of anecdotal data from the students we work with, we wanted to create a space to equip parents with some tools if you find this conversation difficult or non-existent with your own child. We realize that parenting styles are deeply personal and you may choose not to take this approach with your child. However, if you have tried to engage in a conversation with your child and things do not go well OR you aren’t getting any feedback, you might try some tips provided here! Also, we would LOVE to hear your parent success stories of how your conversations go! Contact us here.
Before starting the conversation:
- In order to have this conversation, it is imperative that your child feels comfortable and safe in the conversation. Try establishing some ground rules, or use ours, found here.
- Try to catch them at a time when they are already relaxed and having a good time with you, instead of in reaction to something that happens in their life/at school. While it is important to process any big events that happen in their life (dating, friendships, bullying, school incident), let conversations about healthy and unhealthy relationships happen at other times too, not as reactionary.
- Try watching movies/TV shows and pause after you see a couple and/or people engaging in healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behaviors and start the conversation there! Or use relationships that you and your child both see—from celebrities to family and friends. Ask, “What do you think about _____’s relationship?” Discuss different healthy and unhealthy relationships.
During the conversation:
- Say things like, “I hear you.” or “Wow. That’s such a great point”, be sure to be affirming in their opinions, you don’t have to agree but you don’t want to shut them down.
- Use “I…” Statements:
- I think
- I feel
- I believe
- I want
- If they say something you don’t understand, or use a word you’re not familiar with, just ASK! They love getting to explain their world for other people. We have listed some common relationship terms and types on the side
“What relationship would you like yours to be most like?”
“What are dealbreakers for you?” (Things that they would end the relationship for, no matter what)
“Do you feel that you can talk to me? Even about things that may be uncomfortable?”
“What can I do to make you feel more empowered to stand up for yourself?”
“What can I do to make you feel more empowered to stick to your boundaries?”
“What do you think the most important thing in a relationship is?”
“Who would your perfect partner be?” (Personality/Values/Goals)
What not to say:
In working in the classroom, we often hear students talk about what’s not helpful when they engage adults in their life about relationships topics. The following statements are from students about what they feel shuts down the conversation and prevents them from opening up and being honest:
“You’re too young”
“It’s just puppy love”
“Stop being dramatic”
“Get over it.”
You might also find this helpful. This was a creation of a high school class during a discussion about how adults in their lives discourage conversation. We hope you find this helpful!