Communicating with your Teen about Healthy Dating Relationships

During adolescence, peers are incredibly important to a young person’s emotional growth and “connectedness” – being a part something bigger than just their family. This is a natural part of the developmental process that eventually leads to adulthood.

For some teens, relationships with friends can develop into romance. While we all remember how exciting a first love can feel, it can also be confusing and complicated. 

The best way to help you teen have a happy, healthy and safe relationship is to talk with your teen about relationships before they start dating, and to keep the conversation open even after they start dating. For example, help them realize that strong feelings they have for a person now may not last forever. The key word is “conversation”. Laying down the “law” may be met with “rolling of the eyes”, grumbling, and doing things secretly behind your back.  Pick a quiet time to start the conversation when they are most likely to be receptive and you are not exhausted by work or household chores, perhaps a weekend afternoon. You may want to use something you read or saw on television or observed in the neighborhood to get the conversation going. Start with broad statements, then ask specifically about what your son or daughter is thinking about or doing.

“I’ve read in the newspaper, or I’ve noticed in our neighborhood, that many young people have started dating. I’m curious, what are things like with your friends?

Often, if their friends are dating- that is a strong indication that this will be something your young person will also be considering. So, if they answer yes. …”’Yeah, a lot of them are going out” …you can respond with saying. “That’s interesting. Tell me more. What do you think about that?” The concept is getting them to engage in dialogue. After they respond, you can then ask “How about you? Have you had similar interests? Are you thinking about dating? Are you interested in anyone? Has anyone expressed interest in you?”

With that information gathered, you can then begin providing information and advice consistent with your family values. Remind your teen that real, lasting relationships take time and should not be rushed. Encourage them to reflect on how their relationship makes them feel. By understanding where your teen is at in their relationships, you can better help them prepare for the changes they will feel as the relationship runs its course.

In addition to communicating with teens about healthy dating relationships, it’s important for you as a parent to “walk the walk.” If you are in a relationship, try to model open communication, respect and support in your relationships.  On the flip side, if your teen sees you or other adults in their life experiencing frequent and unresolved arguments or displays of aggression, those negative experiences can be adopted by your teen. They can take on those same traits in their relationships by observing them in adults. So, parents, if things are not going well in your relationship with your partner, please consider getting help. This will not only impact you but your son or daughter also.

Reach out to BeWell or your BridgeUP Fellow.  If you are concerned about your relationship you can reach out to: New York State Domestic Violence Prevention Hotline: 1-800-942-6906