How to talk to your child about dating and relationships
Dating can be a touchy subject - What limits should be in place for teens? How much should parents intervene?
These are things you need to talk about with your teen. Here's what Candyce Clifft discovered by talking to a professional about a parent's role in dating.
Whether it's holding hands, kissing, or just saying you're "going with" someone, dating is an exciting and sometimes scary prospect for teens.
Family & Children's Place counselor Donna Russow says parents need to talk with their teens before dating starts."I think parents sometime think, 'Okay they're at that age now, they they know what they're doing, I don't need to be involved,' and I think the opposite is true."
Russow says, "parents need to understand and have their children understand that dating is not sex, sex is not dating. There's a huge difference. Dating is really just getting to know the other person, it's creating a healthy relationship."
Russow says parents should set limits on curfews, who's driving, and how often a teen should check in. "Parents should not be afraid to talk about their own values. The consequences should be known ahead of time, and that's the deal parents need to follow through with the consequence."
She suggests letting the teen help determine reasonable consequences for not following the rules. And, don't neglect the impact technology has on dating. Set rules for cell phone and internet use, and don't be afraid to check up on your teen. Russow says supervising is not spying. "They are one click away whether it's a cell phone or the internet from their reputation being public and being permanent."
Finally, Russow says it's important for teens to know that parents will always love them and be there for them, no matter how heartbreaking, exciting, or embarrassing their dating experience might be.
"I think one of the biggest mistakes most parents make is not listening. Listening does not mean you are going to agree with your child. It doesn't mean that you're going to change your rules. Listening just means that when you are setting those rules, you're going to try to look at it from where the teen is coming from too," according to Russow.
Family & Children's Place offers these tips on how to talk to your child about dating and relationships
The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western developed world, according to data gathered by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP). Approximately one in five teens has had sex before age 15, and roughly half of teens ages 12-14 have been on a date or in a romantic relationship in the past 18 months.
For most parents, these statistics are alarming. However, research shows that the quality of relationship you have with your child can make a huge difference when they are faced with making decisions about dating and relationships.
Counselors at Family & Children's Place, a Louisville-based nonprofit organization, offer the following tips when talking to your child about dating and relationships.
Parents underestimate their influence with younger teens.
- Talk to your children about these issues as early as possible.
- By age 13-14, the knowledge kids have about sex and relationships comes from their friends; it's usually wrong.
- Instead of dwelling on differences, like how different dating is today than it was 20 years ago, talk about similarities, like nervousness before a date.
- Ask your child for his or her opinions. Use movies or television as a launch pad for conversation about dating and relationships. Ask your child what he or she thinks is appropriate.
- Know yourself. What are your personal values and views on sex and relationships?
Know what's going on with your son or daughter. Ask::
- Who are your friends?
- Where are you going? What will you be doing?
- Who else will be there? Will there be adult supervision?
- What are you reading? Watching? Listening to?
Stress to your teenagers what qualities he or she should look for in a significant other:
- Emotional availability
Set limits and stick to them.
- Be cautious, but not rigid or unreal. These rules can backfire.
- Overly relaxed rules can also fail; children need structure and support.
- Let your children have input, but in the end, the parent has the final say.
Some basic guidelines when it comes to dating and your teenager:
- Discourage early, frequent, or steady dating. Encourage group activities.
- Take a stand against your daughter dating a boy or man considerably older than she is.
- Don't permit your son to be in an intimate relationship with a girl much younger or older than he is.
- Try to set a two-to-three year age difference limit.
Donna Russow, LCSW, Program Manager for Family & Children's Place's Family Counseling Service says, "Parents meeting their teen's friends and dates is important. Remember that teen dating is stressful for both parents and teens. If you have concerns about how or whom your teen is dating, talk to other parents and if needed, talk to a counselor."
Love vs. Infatuation
What is the definition of love and infatuation?
- INFATUATION-Unrealistic expectation or bliss with little growth or development
- LOVE-Shared respect, admiration and being able to maintain a relationship during both ups and downs
What are some characteristics of infatuation?
- Jealousy and distrust
- Partners have idealized image of each other
- One person is always giving more than receiving
What are characteristics of love?
- Honesty, respect and trust
- Partners have interest in other areas besides relationship
- You both enjoy spending time together
What are some tips to making the distinction?
- Think with a level head about both sides of the situation.
- Ask yourself if your life is better because of your love interest.
- Ask if you are pursuing the relationship out of loneliness, pressure or guilt.
For more information on Family & Children's Place, call 893-3900 or visit www.familyandchildrenfirst.org