Parenting Tips on Teen Dating – Part Two

October 24, 2022

As a continuation from last month’s blog topic, we wanted to continue with Teen Dating again this month as we know it is a daunting topic to tackle in parenting. Just remember that this is a normal, healthy, and necessary part of any young adult’s emotional development.

Here are some more teen dating tips from our wise team of clinicians!

Amy Andrukonis, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

Last month I wrote about how we can parent our young children in order to prepare them for healthy dating relationships in the future. Two things are true: the first is that part of our job as parents is setting limits for our children, and overruling them when what they want is unsafe or unacceptable. The second is that our children tend to repeat dynamics from their earliest relationships in their adult relationships, meaning what we teach our children now is likely to show up in their future relationships – be they friendship relationships, work relationships, or dating relationships.

We don’t want our children to think that love means obedience and compliance, because this could get them into unsafe situations as teens and adults. Our children need us to set limits, but they also need us to teach them how to voice their thoughts and feelings and listen to their own bodies so that they don’t get stuck in a cycle of people-pleasing as they grow up. Consider the statements below.

  • Your thoughts and feelings matter, and they matter to me.
  • My job is to keep you safe. It’s OK if you don’t always like my choices, but I’ll still do my job.
  • I love you even when I don’t like your behavior.
  • You get to be your own person. You and I don’t always have to agree.

If one or a few resonate with you, write them down and place them where you can see them. As you communicate these complex ideas to your child with your words and actions, they will learn that their thoughts and feelings are important – even the ones that differ from yours. They will learn that love and obedience are not the same thing. This understanding will serve them well in dating and throughout life.

Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor

To quickly summarize my post from last month, promoting healthy and safe teen dating actually begins early on with modeling healthy relationships. Heathy relationships have many components (self-respect, honesty, compromise, problem solving, empathy, good communication, boundaries) and in last month’s post I promised some tips for teaching, modeling, and practicing some of these prior to the teen years in hopes of setting kids up for success.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you will not be surprised when I tell you the top two ways to help develop these skills are to PLAY EVERY DAY and READ WITH YOUR CHILDREN.

  • Play: Structured and unstructured play time incorporates communication, problem solving, boundary setting, honesty, and so much more. Think of the last time you played a game. What was it? A structured game like a board game or was it unstructured, like building legos without a kit? The most recent game for me was cards with my daughter. One of my rules is that I do not let children win on purpose (except when running a race because I don’t want to run anywhere). I also do not allow cheating in games. These are both boundaries that I clearly communicate before engaging in a game with any child. In my daughter’s case, she feels a sense of pride when she beats me (which happens more than I would like to admit). However, when she does not win, if a game is hard, or the rules are unclear, it is easy to become frustrated – these are opportune times to practice emotional regulation. Children learn through play. They learn how to read non-verbal cues, they learn how to follow rules, how to problem solve, how to persevere in challenging tasks, etc.
  • Reading: This should really say “reading and reflecting”. Reading the book, any book, is step one. The next step is to talk about the story. Some of my favorite books are the Piggie and Elephant books by Mo Willems. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends with distinct personalities. They have super fun times filled with creativity, sharing, frustration, concern, love, misunderstandings, apologies, and so much more. Children can learn about these things by noticing what the characters are thinking, feeling, and doing. You can help children make connections between what is happening in the books and real life situations. These don’t have to be literary lectures but instead a quick question such as “Do you think Piggie was being a friend to Gerald when…?”

Modeling, practicing, and teaching healthy relationships is not just important but it can be fun too! If you need parenting support while navigating teen dating in your family, contact our Director of First Impressions to set up a parenting consultation with Dr. Amy Parks, LPC and Practice Owner.

Until next time, Be Wise!