When your teen begins to show an interest in dating you will want to talk with him or her about your feelings and expectations. There should be serious thought about your rules regarding dating. After you’ve done this you’re ready to talk to your teen.
Start as early as middle school.
Here’s How to talk to your teen:
- Be clear when talking to your teen. Explain to your teen that while you’ll discuss dating with him/her, that doesn’t mean you are giving your permission to go out on dates or begin dating someone.
- Help your teen look at the pros and cons of dating. Explain how dating can cost money and/or time. Try to show your teen that dating ‘just to date’ or ‘because his/her friends are dating’ is never a good reason to date.
- Discuss the responsibility of dating with your teen. Dating involves another person who your teen will need to treat with respect. Share your values and explain your expectations so your teen can develop healthy values too.
- Ask your teen what he/she thinks, feels or wants in the way of permissions when he/she begins dating and listen (do not talk) to what your teen has to say.
- Share your thoughts on what you feel are appropriate rules for dating. Try not to turn this talk into a debate on rules.
- Make it very clear to your teen, through words and actions, that you will always be there for him/her should he/she have any questions or if he/she needs you to listen. Dating can be rough. Although your teen will need to make his/her own choices, you’ll want him/her to ask for your advice.
- Talk to your teen about sex. There is no way out of this part of the conversation. Remember to share your expectations and family values.
- Explain to your teen that ‘no’ means ‘no’. This isn’t just about sexual intercourse; it also is about anything your teen or your teen’s date does not want to do.
- Tell your teen that dating is meant to be fun. If your teen ever feels threatened, verbally put down, physically harmed, or is pressured into sex, sexual acts or raped, he/she should come to you or another trusted adult right away.
Dating violence is the threat or act of violence from one partner to another within the context of a dating relationship, either heterosexual or homosexual.
How can you as a parent help?
First and foremost, recognize the warning signs:
- Falling or failing grades.
- Stops giving his/her own opinion.
- Changes in mood or personality.
- Use of drugs/alcohol – not just experimentation.
- Emotional outburst – not just mood swings.
- Isolates herself/himself, insists on more privacy.
- Physical signs of injury such as cuts, bruises, etc.
- Makes excuses for the abuser’s behavior.
- Begins to put herself/himself down.
Although parents may not see many of these signs, these are potential red flags that may identify an abuser:
- Extremely jealous, hypersensitive and controlling.
- Verbally abusive and threatens violence.
- Has unpredictable mood swings, with instances of explosive anger.
- Uses drugs and alcohol, not just experimentation.
- Uses force during an argument, physical and emotional.
- Believes in rigid sex roles.
- Sexual coercion/pressure to have sex.
- Blames others for his/her problems or feelings.
- Has a history of abusive relationships.
- Isolates your teen from friends and family.
Keep your eyes and ears open when your teen is dating. Stay involved and most importantly be
there when your teen wants to talk. These things will help you see the signs of dating violence.
Things Not to Say or Do
Do not be critical of your teen or his/her partner.
Do not ask blaming questions such as: “Why don’t you break up with him/her?” or “What did you say to provoke your partner?”
Do not talk to both teens together. The victim may feel inhibited about what he/she can say.
Do not assume that the victim wants to leave the abusive relationship. Assist him/her in assessing the situation.
Use open communication, but do not pressure your teen to end the relationship. You do not want this to become a power struggle. You want to make it clear you have seen the warning signs and while he/she has the choice of continuing to date this person, you are there for him/her should you be needed.
Have the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County hotline number available for your teen (724-656-STOP). This way, if your teen is still worried about coming to you when there is a problem, he/she has a place to call for support.
If your teen is physically hurt take him/her the hospital right away. Reassure your teen that their physical well-being comes first and you can talk about how it happened when he/she is better. Hug, pamper, console, but do not nag your teen. After your teen has received medical attention, contact the police or talk with the hospital social worker who will contact the authorities for you.
If your teen tells you about physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse against him/her it is time to contact the authorities. If you aren’t sure where to call, try the local police or the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County at 724-656-STOP.
Sexual assault and teen dating
Why don’t teens tell their parents (or other adults) if they have been raped? The Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County cannot know all of the reasons, but we have heard a few of them more than once:
Your teen had been drinking. Teens know that drinking alcohol is against the law, and are
worried that the rape was their fault if they were drunk. Let your teen know that they can talk to you even if they do something that they know is wrong.
Your teen may think no one will believe him/her. There are many reasons teens are worried that they won’t be believed. If the person who raped them is his/her boy/girlfriend others might think he/she gave consent and he/she’s lying about it. Another common reason is that it is someone the family knows and likes, and can’t imagine him/her as someone who would commit sexual assault. Let your teen know that you will believe him/her, no matter what he/she tells you.
You’ll be upset or disappointed in him/her. Teens can be very protective of their parents and don’t want to upset them, or give them something else to worry about. Teens also want their parents to feel proud of them and trust them. Reassure him/her that you can support him/her in any situation that he/she might be in. Let him/her know that you love and support him/her no matter what happens.