Many people date as a teen. This is often uncertain territory for teens and parents. Here’s a guide to what you need to know to navigate teen dating.
1. Think Before You React to Your Teen Dating
If you already reacted negatively, that’s okay. The most important thing now is that your teen knows you love them no matter what. You may think your teen is too young to be dating. I may even agree with you on that. Your feelings about it won’t keep your teen from dating though. Those feelings will just keep them from telling you about it.
The best way you can make sure your teen stays safe and happy in their relationship is by talking to them about it. Teenage brains value privacy and personal space as they go through many changes during this time. A teen won’t talk to you if they think you will judge them. They won’t take your advice unless they know you only want the best for them.
2. If Your Teen is Dating, Make Sure They Understand Consent
Your teen dating does not automatically mean they are having sex. It may not even mean they want to have sex. That being said, you don’t know what their new partner’s intentions are. Sitting your teen’s new partner down and asking them about their intentions is not a superb way to build trust with your teen. Studies also suggest that pushing only abstinence doesn’t keep teens from having sex.
Instead, make sure your teen and you have a common understanding of sexual health, safety, and consent. There are outstanding videos and graphics available online that can help direct this conversation. The important part about consent is that it is given “freely and enthusiastically.” Making sure you and your teen share an understanding of consent now is an important step to helping them form healthy dating habits.
3. Teen Dating Will Always Have Drama, Know When it Goes Too Far
The teenage years are an emotional time. To a certain extent, all teens experience drama. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, 26% of cisgender females and 15% of cisgender males experience dating violence before they turn 18.
I am not telling you this to scare you. It is important to realize that not all drama is just “drama.” Educate yourself and your teen about the difference between drama and abuse.
Your teen will most likely start dating before they graduate from high school. This is a daunting possibility for many parents. Building a foundation of trust, maintaining open communication, and coming to a common understanding of consent and safety will help you and your teen navigate dating together.