Ideas for talking about teen dating (with your teenager)

Talking to our kids about teen dating, sex, and love can be uncomfortable, but as most of us know, we should be doing a better job at it. Making the effort to talk to your teen about these things can put them at ease, and help them to know how to navigate those emotions and processes. Here are some ideas of what to talk about when talking to teenagers about dating, sex, love, and relationships.

The purpose of teen dating is to find out whom you don’t belong with.

Love requires a good search, trial and error, and a fair measure of heartbreak. In fact, if you’re interest we have rules for breaking up too. You’ll have to kiss plenty of frogs before you find your prince!

You’re only really ready to date when you don’t need to have a relationship to be happy.

Never let yourself stay with anyone you have to be with. Relationships require authentic choice, not dependency. This is called "differentiation". It’s a word you’ll want your teens to learn and use, and it begins at home with parents who can put aside their own longings to focus on who and what their teen wants to be. Teach your teen that it's vital to be happy within yourself rather than depending on someone else for your happiness.

Love isn’t something you feel.

It’s something you do. Encourage your teens to balance all those deep feelings of love with some practical attention to detail. Like, does their partner do okay in school? Does he or she treat others well? Does he or she have integrity?

Most people want to change… But not very much.

While couples inevitably alter each other, it’s best to start with as little assembly required as possible.

Never date someone you wouldn’t consider marrying.

Of course, no one is ready for marriage at 16 (or 20), but thinking this way can help you stay focused. Alternatively, never date anyone you wouldn’t let your son or daughter date when you have kids.

Never date anyone you don’t want to be broken up from.

Judge partners not by how they treat people they like, but by how they treat people with whom they have conflict. You’ll undoubtedly be one of them some day.

Relationships go from where they start.

Never ignore red flags at the beginning while everything is flowers and unicorns running through a field of roses.

All relationships are four-dimensional.

As love ages, the raw spots start to show. Give every relationship time before you deem it the love of your life or a complete flop.

The least motivated partner in a couple has the most power – the power of walking away.

The most powerful dating partner is always the one who can say “no”. Practise it in the mirror. It comes in handy. But don’t forget to use it; you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do in a relationship. So remember to actually say “no”.

Feeling “meant to be together” is about the most overrated dating idea ever.

Meaning to be together is where it’s at. Monogamy isn’t a natural state of being, so you have to get up every day and decide to be in a teen dating relationship.

Adversity is a crucial test.

Couples aren’t judged by how they do when things are good. They are judged by how they solve life’s problems. As a teen, you don’t have a load of life’s problems on your shoulders. But little fights about what to do and whom you can hang out with are all things that will need to be worked out. If your teen’s boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t want to work out these little things, then they're definitely not interested in the big fights.

Resist the urge to 'gram it.

Yes, your anticipated 150 Instagram likes and 12 comments on a dating selfie are probably spot-on perfect. However, weigh in on which is more important: This moment with your significant other, or the double-tap approval of that girl you sat next to at lunch once in intermediate. Keeping the relationship off social media gives you a chance to get to know someone properly, and learn if they are worth a second date. If you like someone, you shouldn’t care about how many likes come from that Instagram. If you really want to Instagram something, ask you date to take a photo of you, or take an image of the scenery (not your date!) or the food.

Listen to your head when it’s talking to you.

Just because a decent-looking person wants to be more than friends, that doesn’t mean you should just throw logic out the window and dive headfirst into what may be a shallow pool of actual substance. It’s better to acknowledge warning signs than to hold desperately to a slowly dying relationship a few months down the road.

Cling not to others, lest they cling to you.

Relationships are based on trust, and if you or your partner must maintain constant contact 24/7, that’s a problem. Do things with each other, but don’t ignore or disregard other people.

Along the same lines, realise that while romantic relationships can be exciting, friendships are equally important.

Blowing off friends for a new significant other will be harmful to all relationships involved. Don’t burn your bridges to follow your dream person, only to break up and have no one to fall back on. Your friends should be your first real, big relationships.

Know when to call it off.

Don’t hold on to a lost cause. There is someone out there for everyone – and that someone isn’t one who creates more problems than he or she solves. And if that attractive guy in your year isn’t for you, then he isn’t for you. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.

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