Parents play an important role in supporting their teenagers through relationships – from role modelling positive behaviours to offering support and a listening ear. When young people start dating, there’s a whole lot of emotion and expectation attached. Being prepared on how to deal with it can help your child with their own romantic relationships, but it will also ensure that you maintain your bond and stay connected with your child while they’re going this very intense and exciting period.
This can help if you:
- suspect your teenager is thinking about a relationship
- want to make sure your teenager engages in respectful relationships
- want your teenager to be safe and respected in relationships.
Embracing and understanding teenage relationships
Beginning romantic relationships is a major part of growing up. It can be uncomfortable for some parents to come to terms with their child dating. It’s normal to feel scared, worried or sometimes sad about it. You may even feel the urge to discourage your child from pursuing relationships in their teens, but the truth is it won’t always work. Teenage relationships come naturally with adolescence, just like acne, facial hair or mood swings- it’s completely normal, so it’s best to embrace it!
How will my teenager experience romantic relationships?
It will be a bit of a rollercoaster. There are a lot of emotions involved when teens start dating. Not only is adolescence overwhelming enough with school stress, navigating friendships and dealing with hormones- relationships add a whole other layer to the cake. When teens begin romantic relationships it’s exciting, it’s consuming, it’s fun and it’s sometimes heartbreaking. So be prepared to deal with a whole spectrum of emotions by letting your child know that they can come to you in the good times, as well as when things are getting tough.
They may be distracted. Chances are when your teen is in a relationship, it might feel like that’s all they can concentrate on or care about. This is particularly true if it’s a new relationship. But let’s face it, this doesn’t change that much when people get older. The beginning of a relationship is often the most exciting and the most time consuming. If you’re concerned with the amount of time your child is spending with their boyfriend or girlfriend, make sure you communicate this to them while also being supportive and open to a discussion.
How can I help my teenager engage in a healthy romantic relationship?
The best way to show support is to be open to talking about their relationship. Let your child know that they can come to you for support, and be sure not to be dismissive of their experiences. Depending on their age, you may need to have a conversation around sex - try not to be judgemental so they feel like they can come to you with anything.
Let’s face it - the most influential people in a teenager’s life are often the adults around them. The single most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a positive role model, by engaging in respectful relationships with the friends and family that you yourself care about. This is critical to your child being able to understand what a respectful and healthy romantic relationship looks like, and how to create one. In addition, make sure you talk to your child about respectful relationships as this is an important step in them recognising respectful relationships, and importantly, when they might not be in one.
You’ll find some more tips to help your child with romantic relationships here.