When young people start dating, it can be a difficult time for parents as they try to establish how much interest to take without coming across as interfering. Trying to strike this balance can be a juggling act as every parent wants to keep their teen safe when they embark into the world of relationships.
Starting up conversations early can help young people form what they want and do not want in relationships and can also help them identify what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Their ideals and values can form very early as they watch the relationships their parents may have. It is important to bear this in mind whether you are with the other parent or in another relationship, as your child may be observing from a young age and can form an idea of what is normal in a relationship. Unfortunately, some young people we talk too who are in unhealthy relationships have said that their mum or dad was always arguing, so they think it is normal to accept this from their partner.Starting up those conversations about healthy relationships for young people might feel awkward for some parents general chat whilst doing the dinner or when relaxing may be more productive. You can ask them what they would do in certain scenarios, what they want from their ideal person and what attributes they might be looking for. Talk to them on their level and answer their questions honestly. This can be a positive way of finding out what their expectations are and teaching them to respect themselves.
Young people can often feel under pressure when their peers start taking an interest in relationships and may feel like they need to do the same. Often their self-esteem and confidence can take a knock during this time too. You may find that when they start developing feelings for someone, they may start questioning how they look, whether they are good enough for this person and might think that the person is looking for big boobs, muscles, perfect hair, good looking, designer clothes, etc. They may overlook the fact that the person who likes them is attracted to them as a person and it is important to drive this message home and encourage them to see the positives in themselves.
It doesn’t matter if the people in the relationship are young or old, relationships take work no matter what the age, demographics or culture of the people involved. The happiness and success of a relationship depend on the healthiness of it. Encouraging your young person to see this, have high expectations for themselves and recognise warning signs is essential. Keep those conversations going with your young person by taking an interest in what is happening in their lives without interfering. Share your experiences with them of when you were younger so they can see that you may have gone through similar things too. Give them support and a listening ear when they need it and let them know that your door is always open if they want to talk about things.