by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 29, 2021 healthy relationships, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Nothing can fill a parent with trepidation quite like watching their teenager enter the world of dating.
While you may feel some “mama bear” instincts to shut it down, your teen needs you to be there for them. And they’re probably craving to know (without telling you): what does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Instill these five teachable habits to help your teen build healthy relationships.
Relationships rest on emotions, words, and actions. Teach your teen that emotions can’t be controlled, but words and actions can – and they form the basis of a communication.
Actions communicate broad messages like “I want to be here” or “I like you”. But words are the real powerhouse of healthy communication.
Especially when swept away in the beginning, your teen may feel like they can read their partner’s mind. But at some point, this illusion will end. Hurt feelings often result.
Save your teen trouble by teaching them to air out issues before they happen. Remind them to speak gently when opening a conversation. It helps all parties feel like they can say what’s really on their mind.
If your teen and their girlfriend/boyfriend know where they stand on relationship status, sex, and expectations, to name some heavy-hitters, they can navigate from a thoughtful place.
Clear boundaries set a relationship free. They remove the guesswork. Teach your teen the nuts and bolts of boundary setting in a relationship.
Your sounding board can help them get in touch with their inner voice. Inquire in a helpful way. “Do you want him to text you that much?” “Do you feel ready to take your relationship with her to that level of commitment?” Encourage them to answer from their gut instinct.
Then let them know they can request a boundary directly, i.e. “I only want text a few times a day”. Make it clear that if the person involved with doesn’t respect that boundary, it’s a red flag.
Help your teen understand what constitutes physical and emotional safety in a relationship. Encourage them to take time away from the partner to reflect on how things are going. Remind them that any relationship worth keeping will be there when they return.
Highlight the difference between safe and unsafe. Safe should feel comfortable, open, trusting, unpressured, and generally easy. Unsafe situations will evoke feelings of pressure, hiding, secrets, shame, and general ickiness.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Your teen may feel nervous about getting to know somebody they like. It can be scary to put yourself out there! Give them foundational talk skills to help get over that knot in the throat.
A powerful but underrated conversation skill is asking open-ended questions. Coach your teen to say “How do you feel about your biology class?” instead of “Do you like biology?” Questions like this can really get the conversation flowing. Your teen’s crush will feel their care and interest, and your teen will feel empowered to listen and share.
Enjoy the Fun
Provide gentle but realistic perspective for teenage relationships. The person they date in middle school and high school, in all likelihood, will not be who they marry. It might not even last a few weeks or months. And that’s okay.
Emphasize that relationships are about learning at this point – and fun! If they’re not having fun, encourage your teen to set a boundary to change or end the relationship. Support their discovery of what’s fun or not fun for them.
These building blocks will help them down the road. In the meantime, they’re building happy memories and growth-oriented relationships that uplift them in an often tumultuous season of life.
For more relationship support for you and your teen, consult the following resources:Learn More