The transition from pre-teen relationships — that center around hanging out and meeting up with friends — to teenage relationships, with solo time and one-on-one dates, is challenging for all parents and guardians to navigate. Berkshire Farm Center Behavioral Health Clinician Debbie Greene, LMSW works primarily with teens in foster care and therefore, has helped many young adults and their guardians prepare for romantic relationships and dating as teenagers mature. She recommends taking a transparent approach to communication when educating your teens about dating and establishing important boundaries and expectations.
Cultivate Transparent Communication & Comfortable Conversation
Your teen needs to know that you will be there for them as they work through the many feelings, challenges, and new experiences of dating. Without placing unnecessary pressure on your young adult, honestly communicate with them about dating — perhaps sharing anecdotes and lessons from your experiences dating in high school. Establishing transparent communication is critical to understanding what is happening in your teen’s life and creating the comfort level required for them to turn to you in times of need or confusion.
Take Time to Educate Your Teen About Situations They May Encounter
When a teen first starts to date, especially considering the technology and social media available to today’s high school students, they are put in a position that leaves them vulnerable to many situations that can have lasting impacts on their life. Take the time to educate your teen about possible situations and scenarios and how they can navigate those challenges. Some topics you may want to educate your teen about include:
In a world where it is very common to connect with someone online and begin a relationship sight unseen, catfishing presents a significant concern. Talk to your teen about what catfishing is and provide them with some recommendations to minimize its likelihood.
The permanency of social media is often not a consideration for teens who are acting in the moment. Debbie Greene, LMSW recommends you explain to your young adults that once you post something on social media, even when your accounts are private, it is on the Internet forever. When sharing this information, also provide some tangible examples of how this can impact your teen’s future — for example, a college recruiter may Google their name and discover something that impacts their admission.
Teach your teen about consent — not only what consent is but also phrases to use when they do or do not consent, how to recognize consent from others, and what to do if their partner is doing something without appropriate consent. When explaining consent, also consider sharing with your teen about manipulative language and some phrases that individuals may use when attempting to manipulate your young adult such as, “if you really loved me, you would…”
Establish Boundaries & Expectations
Before your teen heads out on a date or couples up with another young adult, establish boundaries and make your expectations as a parent and guardian clear. Engage your teen in conversation by asking them what types of expectations they have about dating and how they would like you to handle this new stage in their life. Always keep safety — rather than control — top of mind as you establish healthy boundaries with your teen.