25 Feb Tough Talks #12: Love
The teen years are a pivotal time when boys and girls’ mindsets often change from cooties to cuties. Suddenly, romantic interests and raging hormones mean that it is time to have the talk. Not just about the birds and the bees, but about love too! Teens are getting ready to have their first relationships, experience new feelings, and unfortunately, fall into some potentially tricky situations. Throughout this time of learning and exploration, teens need a safe place to go for information and advice. A trusted adult can help young people sort fact from fiction when it comes to love in real life, not just the examples they see on social media or TV. So here are a few of the important topics not to miss when approaching the tough talk that is teen dating, relationships, and love.
The first and perhaps most important thing to foster in a healthy relationship is respect. Simply put, real love cannot exist without it. Just as they would a parent, sibling, teacher, or friend, teens must show respect to their partners and should expect to be treated the same way in return. When talking about teen love, be sure to explain the importance of making mutual respect a priority in their relationship. Not only should they offer and require it in their relationships, it is equally as important to treat themselves with respect as well.
Each teen moves at their own pace. What is too slow for your teen might be too fast for their partner or vice versa. It is incredibly important to address this with your teen to make sure that not only are they checking in with what they are comfortable with, but that they are also checking on what pace their partner is happy with too. Remind them to keep in mind that everyone is different and a slower or faster preferred pace does not necessarily make someone more or less mature. How quickly feelings grow depends on not only age and experience but trust, communication, even connection!
Peer pressure is a well known expectation in adolescence. Dealing with the opinions of others can be stressful and as kids get older they have to start thinking about pressure surrounding teen dating too. Not only can teens be pressured by their partners but they can feel pressured by friends or other peers too. Wanting to seem cool or experienced in dating can push teens to engage in activities or get into situations that they are not comfortable with. Teach your teen to check in regularly with their emotions and assess what they feel ready for. Let your teen know that if they feel pressured that they can come to you or another trusted adult to discuss their options to work through making decisions that feel right to them.
An important part of any healthy relationship is establishing boundaries. Remind your teen that this is a practice that should be upheld and re-evaluated consistently, at any age and in any stage of a relationship. As things get more serious, explain to your teen that they can help to avoid uncomfortable situations by getting ahead of them with open and honest communication. Encourage them to establish healthy boundaries around intimacy, how much time they spend together, balancing their independence and how they expect to be treated.
If you have an older teen with some relationship experience already, it is very possible that they could undergo the dreaded feeling…heartbreak. While no parent or educator wants to see a young person they care about in pain, we know that getting hurt is a very real part of life and is often an inevitable part of teen dating. Share with your teen that love requires vulnerability and therefore a risk of feeling hurt. Let them know that the heartache they feel is normal and can help them better understand themselves and what they are looking for in a future relationship.
At Tilly’s Life Center, our mission is to support teens in the pursuit of positive, fulfilling relationships. As teens start to engage in romantic and intimate adventures, it is up to parents and educators to provide them the tools and information they need to understand what healthy relationships for teens look like and how to distinguish situations that are not benefiting them. Our workshops offer teen mental health resources to guide young people through how to make good decisions while feeling empowered and in control of their dating lives!