The teen years are those of first loves and heartbreaks. It’s a time of highs and lows as youth navigate crushes, breakups, and everything in between. Regardless of whether they confide in you or not, be sure to always support your teen.
Remember – if your teen isn’t in a relationship– they are NORMAL! In fact, only about 1 in 3 teens have some type of experience in a romantic relationship, a figure that includes current and former daters, as well as those in serious and less-serious relationships.
Discuss ground rules with your teen’s other parent and think now about how you’ll establish family rules around relationships. Before you talk to your teen, think about what rules you want to set up around romantic friendships.
- Are they allowed to have doors closed with friends over?
- Can they have their partner over if you are not there?
- What time is their curfew?
- What is a date? What age can they go out on one?
- What is the punishment for breaking these rules?
- Do you want to establish a “no sex while I’m here” rule?
- How will they access condoms? Birth control?
- Will you offer your child Plan X – they can text you an X and you’ll come get them from a bad situation – no questions asked?
- What happens if your teen or their partner does get pregnant? What will you do as a family?
- How will you help them navigate their options?
Talk About Healthy Relationships
There aren’t a lot of good relationship models for teens. Most “healthy relationships” they see in the media involve adults, while teen media often uses unhealthy relationships as a plot device. Help them understand how to create a respectful, safe relationship for both partners.
- Tell your child how important they are and that they should expect respect in relationships.
- Talk to your child about how you knew that a person was a good choice for a partner. Talk about the qualities that make a good partner – someone who is respectful, honest, kind, funny, makes you feel good about yourself, shares your values, etc.
- Help your child understand how important it is to know that when a partner says “No,” it means to stop the sexual activity immediately. Even if a partner has said yes in the past, “No” means to stop the activity immediately.
- Tell your child that they should speak up for themselves and say “No” when they are uncomfortable, no matter how much pressure they are under.
- Understand that sexual assault is a reality for lots of teens. Teens’ responses vary widely, but your support makes a big difference. Here are some resources for you as a parent.
- Remind your child that having sex isn’t a goal or a badge of honor. They should be ready to have sex when they are ready, not because they feel like they should or have to.
- Share this resource with your child so they can read more about healthy relationships.
- Refer your child to this article about how to be smart at parties and gatherings to protect themselves and friends.
- Give your teen an out and explain that you are always there to pick them up – no questions asked – from a bad situation. Consider using “Plan X” in your family.
- Remind your child that you are always here to address their questions, worries, or concerns. Offer them the option to text you if that makes them feel more comfortable.
To have a deeper conversation about relationships with your child, try these conversation starters:
- What is important to you when you’re interested in someone?
- What do you define as love?
- When would you start to call someone your boyfriend/girlfriend?
- What does it mean to be a “boyfriend”/”girlfriend”?
- How is it different from other relationships?
- What would you do if someone asked you to do something that didn’t feel right?
- How would you react if someone tried to tell you what to wear/do/say?
Teen speak changes constantly. And sometimes the words teens use for relationships aren’t well defined anyway. Here are some words that teens sometimes use to define their romantic relationships:
- Thirsty = desperate or really wants to have sex
- Getting the D = sex girl+boy or boy+boy
- Smash = sex
- Hotline Bling = late night hook up
- Ship = relationship
- Side Ship or Side Chick = “the other woman” or “mistress”
- Postboned = When you are running late because of an unexpected sexual encounter
- HOCO = Homecoming Weekend and DanceDate = still the word for a planned event pairing
- Mah/ma boy = boyfriend
- Babygirl = girlfriend
- Temporary = uncommitted relationship