1. Know yourself
Are you uncomfortable talking about dating and sexuality? Consider why that might be, and remember that it’s worth being a little uncomfortable if it means a better life for your child.
Are there experiences in your past that will affect your comfort talking to your child about sexuality? It’s worth the time (and money) spent to receive counseling, or get support from friends of yours as you process your own life experiences.
2. Know your goals
What beliefs and values lay the foundation for relationships?
How will you know whether your child is in a healthy or unhealthy relationship?
Take a look at the Healthy Relationships Chart [link] to jump-start your thoughts.
Remember to talk about Consent! [link]
3. Listen to your child
When s/he starts dating, let her/him tell you about the relationship. It is important to respond immediately if you believe your child might be abusing her/his partner, but otherwise don’t respond too hastily to anything your child shares with you, since that could shut down her/his openness to talk to you about it.
If you find out that your child has become sexually active, it is important to hold back your gut response of shock or anger, and instead first ask if s/he is okay with being sexually active. 1 out of 5 teens (boys and girls) do not get to choose but instead feel pressured by peers or dating partners, or experience abuse, and deserve to be heard before a parent assumes they are misbehaving or making poor decisions.
Start with this article that we love: Five Questions You Must Ask Your Teen Right Now
4. Start the conversation BEFORE you have to confront a negative situation or unhealthy relationship
If you haven’t already had a clear and direct initial conversation that you KNOW your child walked away with a sense that you are comfortable talking about dating, won’t judge them, will listen to them, and will help them find accurate information – do it this week! Don’t wait to get started. If you can start the conversation when there is no conflict, then when you have to address problems, you have a history of openness with your child and s/he will be less defensive. Visit our page, Talking to Your Teen, for more ways to start and continue these conversations.
5. Promote Empathy for Others
Before a relationship of any type can be healthy, each person has to be able to understand themselves and the other person, and treat the other as an equal. For ideas about encouraging empathy in your child, take our online parent training about healthy relationships and sexuality.
Any beliefs that denigrate and condescend the other gender are a harmful barrier to healthy inter-gender relationships. For example: If a girl assumes that all guys are likely to cheat on their girlfriends, she will have trouble trusting her boyfriend. If a boy assumes that all girls are manipulative and catty, he will have trouble respecting his girlfriend. For more examples, visit Keeping the Conversation Going.
Part of valuing others equally to oneself is recognizing the equality of each gender. We have gathered a list of common myths that today’s youth tend to believe are true about gender and sexuality, and paired them with facts that can replace these myths. We hope you can use this chart as a resource as you keep the conversation going with your teen.
We hope you will find the following documents useful for initiating conversations with your child about what she or he is looking for in a relationship, and how s/he can tell whether a relationship is going well.