Can You Help Your Teen Have a Healthy Dating Life?
|Dr. Wendy Walsh • 7/06/12|
It’s probably one of the hardest things for a parent to see. A depressed teen flung out on her bed for days listening to sad music while looking for that text from her boyfriend who has gone AWOL.
Helping your teen or young adult navigate the, often painful, world of relationships can be terrifying, especially because times have changed and maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve been dating yourself.
1. Educate but never lecture.
The time to begin helping your children walk the prickly path of a love life is long before they begin to date. Hopefully you have created an environment of open, nonjudgmental communication. If you haven’t, it’s time to start biting your tongue and opening your ears.
Your kids need to trust you, and the way to earn trust is to gently inquire and educate kids about sex and relationships but to never lecture.
2. Give them the necessary tools.
Secondly, you need to know who you are and how to impart your morals and ethics with integrity. Too many parents say, “Well in my day, we would never have sent a sexy text at 14, but today all the kids seem to be doing it. At least they’re not actually having sex.”
Rationale like this has you caving in to a highly sexualized culture without giving your child any tools to deal with it. By the way, in case you are still confused about my example, “sexts” ARE a form of sex and have the same impact on the brain.
“Young people of both genders are
attempting to separate sex from love.”
3. Create emotional intimacy.
It’s OK to use your own experiences as a way to educate your adolescents. OK, so you had a few lovers before your husband and maybe you regretted a few. Should you hide the facts and pretend you were a virgin until you met your teen’s daddy dearest? I say no.
Suck it up. Be a human. Admit your mistakes. Explain what worked. This conversation is an opportunity to create emotional intimacy with your teen and to keep the communication door open.
It shouldn’t be a “Do as I say, not as I did” conversation. It should feel more like, “I know what doesn’t work, and I love you so much that I want to protect you from that pain.”
4. Don’t dismiss their feelings.
When the inevitable happens, and her/his heart gets broken, allow the feelings to happen. Above all, don’t try to compensate by making him/her happy or dismissing their feelings. It would be a fabulous world if our children were happy all the time. But our job is not to make them happy.
Our job is to contain them when the world seems to be spinning out of control. Give her a hug or some space. Tell her you understand. Remind her things will get better. Let her know you are a safe sounding board if she wants to talk.
If this particular breakup isn’t bad news to you, above all, don’t do the touchdown cheer. If you didn’t like the scoundrel or sleazy co-ed, keep it to yourself and empathize with your kid. This is not the time for an “I told you so” conversation or “You’re better off without him.”
Remember, they could be back together next week. This is the time for loving support. Remind your adult-ish kid that they are lovable, that they are a catch. This is the time to be the arms your kid can fall back into, not the snickering victor.
Finally, educate yourself about the “High-Supply Sexual Economy.” Mom, we are not in Kansas anymore. Times are different for your precious angel.
Young people of both genders are attempting to separate sex from love. The end result is a highly sexualized culture where two separate daters — players and lovers (those with feelings and the ability to bond through sex) — are rubbing shoulders and mistaking each other for their team players.