As children mature into teenagers, innocent childhood crushes on school-friends can give way to more serious romantic interest. By the time your child reaches secondary school, you can support them with dating. It is better as a parent to support this than to forbid them and have your child sneak behind your back. Allow your child the comfort of being honest with you as they develop during this stage.
We offer advice on supporting your child through teenage dating:
- As children progress through their teenage years, the innocent dates will grow into relationships and become more serious. Talk about responsible behaviour and respect for themselves and the other person. Agree on dating rules.
- When you want to broach the subject of sexual relationships the conversation should start with the notion of responsible behaviour. Some parents feel strongly that if you talk to your teen about sex then you are encouraging them to be sexually active. This is by no means true. Don’t pretend that if you don’t talk to them about sex that they will remain inactive.
- Once your child reaches the teen years it is important to talk to them about contraception. You may wish to take your daughter to your family GP. You can visit the GP first and then allow your daughter go in alone while you sit outside the door and give her the opportunity to take responsibility for her actions and personal care. For the boys, ensure they understand about contraception. Support them to buy male contraception and ensure they know how to use them (there is no age restriction on the purchase of condoms). Ensure they know that they are responsible for their actions and should never expect another person to keep them safe. Each young person must know that they have to take steps to keep themselves safe when they decide to become sexually active.
- If you have this talk with your teen at an early age, it doesn’t mean they will become sexually active earlier but waiting until they are past 16-years-old is not wise. Be brave, you are teaching your child to be responsible. It is a part of parenting that so many parents turn a blind eye to. Relationships are a natural part of life and when teens are educated properly about them and about their own bodies they are less likely to disrespect themselves.
- Ensure your teen knows that they have control over when they choose to have an intimate relationship. Peer pressure can seem a heavy burden at this age. It can seem that everyone is experimenting but often this is not the case. Help your teen to be feel confident in many areas of life and to value themselves so they can decide what is right for them and not take any steps that they are uncomfortable with.
- The other area that is becoming more concerning in teen relationships is abuse. Teens need to know and recognise the signs of control and abuse. Just because they are in a relationship doesn’t mean they should lose their identity. Support your teen to have a voice and also to treat others with respect. Watch their relationships closely and talk with your teen if you notice that their treatment of their partner is not as it should be. Relationship abuse can start in teen relationships and parents need to be aware of this. (Women’s Aid have been working to highlight the issue of abusive dating relationships. Teenage boys in abusive relationships can get support from Amen.)
- For many parents there may be extra worries if they think that their teen could be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Parents can feel really anxious and don’t know how to handle this information. The most important thing to remember is that you love your child no matter what. If your child has come to tell you this then they must feel safe in their relationship with you. It is important not to destroy this now. They need you more than ever as they go through a very challenging time in their life. Belongto offer supports for LGBT young people and their parents.
- You want your child to be happy and safe and to find their way in the world. We all want our child to find the easy path in life but that is not always possible. If we can love our children unconditionally they will have the support they need to find their path. If we can find time to listen to them, to talk to them, and try to understand them, then we will be more confident that they will find their way.
This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org