With teen dating violence on the rise, we as parents need to be taking a more active role in our teenagers’ dating lives — whether they like it or not.
Sometimes we make the mistake of believing that our kids are old enough to deal with these things on their own or are old enough to know better.
But, as we think back to when we were that age — did we know all the things we expect our children to know?
Our teens are still figuring out the rules of the world and those rules include how to deal with romantic partners. It’s up to us to help our teens set those rules and abide by them.
Getting Past the Eye Roll
Ah, the eye roll. I don’t know how many times I did that to my parents. Chances are if you have a pre-teen in your house, you’ve already experienced this. But it’s important for parents not to be put off by the eye roll.
Leslie Kantor, MPH, national director of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and assistant professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University reminds mothers, in particular, that their voice is the most critical one in their daughters’ sex education.
When asked where they get their information about sex, teens always say their number one source is their mother.4
It is important that we use everyday situations to check in to our teen girl’s life. We know their world is full of peer pressure, along with new ideas and attitudes. Teen girls are easily influenced by others.
We need to make sure that any misconceptions or unhealthy attitudes our girls pick up are addressed quickly so they don’t get pulled in.
You know the topic is important and that you’re doing your job as a parent. Stick with it.
Teach from your Own Experiences
If you’ve made some wrong decisions in your own life about sex and unhealthy relationships, your daughter needs to know that her decisions can have the same impact on her life.
Of course, teenagers are famous for saying, “No, that’ll never happen to me” and going ahead and doing things anyway.
The important thing is to make sure that they heardyour message.
Be careful to present your message to them without getting angry and upset. Obviously, if your own past sexual decisions led to your getting pregnant with her, don’t make her think that you regret having her.
Focus on how you weren’t ready for babies or the responsibility and how you had to set dreams and ambitions aside.
Emphasize that you only want to make sure she has a stable job or career to support herself. Having a baby will make life more complicated than it already is when her adult life is just barely getting started.
Of course, sex is the obvious topic here, but the same goes for choosing the right guys, and helping her set boundaries and stick to them.
Most girls today are growing up with the attitude that they need a guy to be happy and to feel loved and, to them, love means sex.
It also means that they might compromise their values and their bodies to get what society tells them feels good from whichever boy is willing to give it to them.
Our girls need to know that love and sex are not the same thing, and that they deserve better than these kinds of boys.
Setting the Stage
Before your daughter starts dating, talk to her about her expectations about how a boy should treat her.
Reinforce the message that both she and whoever she’s dating need to feel respected, supported and valued by each other. Underscore that they need to make decisions together.
Remind her that it's important that they both have friends and interests outside their relationship. Healthy communication is open and honest.
Teach her what signs to watch out. She is in an unhealthy relationship if:3
• “One person tries to change the other"
• “One person makes most or all of the decisions"
• “One or both people drop friends and interests outside the relationship"
• “One or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments"
• “One person makes fun of the other’s opinions and interests"
• “One person keeps track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with friends"
• “There are more bad times than good”
Girls need to be taught to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, if someone is making them do something that they know is wrong, your daughter needs to know that she has the right to say No, and that she needs to call you right away.
Make sure she knows she always has a way out.
1) Teen Dating Violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. Accessed: Dec 29, 2014.
2) Help Your Child. LoveisRespect.org. Web. Accessed: Dec 29, 2014.
3) Talk with Your Teen about Healthy Relationships. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. Accessed: Dec 29, 2014.
4) What Girls Need to Know about Growing Up. Talking to Your Daughter about Dating, Sex, and Peer Pressure. WebMD. Web. Accessed: Dec 29, 2014.
5) Dating Safety Strategies for Teen Girls. Carney, Susan. Suite.io. Web. Accessed: Dec 29, 2014.
Reviewed December 30, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith