When Teenagers Start Dating, Should Parents Worry?

As a part of the new age transformation, teenagers are more inclined towards dating and falling in and out of relationships. This may be termed as westernization or a natural propensity towards change. Teenagers as young as 13 years are entering into serious relationships these days. At a time when the media is flooded with news of outrageous rapes and sexual exploitation, it is natural that a parent would be worried when he learns about his daughter or son dating. What comes along with this is the fear of emotional disturbance at a time when career is most crucial.

From what psychologist and family therapists say regarding teen dating, I have picked a few guidelines to help parents deal with this.

  1. Have Great Communication at home: There is nothing crucial than having clear communication among the parents and children. It is important to keep the channels of communication open at all times and during any catastrophe. A parent should always make himself available to their kids for sharing their problems regarding anything and everything. There should be transparency between parents and kids.
  2. The Role of same sex parent is important: when it comes to love matters, the teenager would like to share his thoughts and feelings with the parent of the same sex. That means Daughters like to confide in mothers while Sons may turn to Fathers for a suggestion. In such a situation, the parent should be responsible enough and should show loyalty by not letting out the secret so valuable to the teenager.
  3. Do not be Judgmental: Passing a judgment regarding the child’s boyfriend or girlfriend or even about his/ her friends can a send a negative signal to the child. He / she will stop sharing things about them fearing criticism. This will make him even more loyal to his peer group which he thinks understands his emotions better. So this naturally hampers the communication.
  4. Discuss Attraction, Love and Sex at home: Usually it is seen that in Indian families, we abstain from discussing certain matters like love and sex. This means shutting down the channel of communication regarding this topic. A teenager observes major sexual changes in his body but feels that they are unacceptable to his parents. So even when the child faces such trouble in relationship, he will be afraid of sharing this as he will be having the preconceived notion that parents will never discuss this.
  5. Inculcate the skill to say No in your child: Sometimes, your teenager will be influenced by her friends or peer group to indulge in something just for the sake of the group. This might be dating or partying. A teenager who does not express his choice of staying away from this, will easily fall prey. Tell your child that he has to say no whenever he is not sure. Teach him not to indulge in activities just to conform to the trend of the peer group.
  6. Keep your child informed about crimes: Encouraging your child to read the newspaper is very beneficial in his development. You should also discuss news and current affairs with him including sexual crimes and scandals. Discuss sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse openly. Make them aware of the possible catastrophe in case they fall in wrong hands.
  7. Teach them they should never hurt anyone’s feeling : Most of the times, we teach children to stay away from wrong doers. But we often neglect to teach them from saying no to emotionally distressing friendships and relationships. Explain to them how they can figure out whether a relationship or friendship gets emotionally taxing on them. Teach them that it is extremely bad to hurt someone’s feeling.
  8. Inculcate Emotional Intelligence: Teach them how to deal with emotions, how to be emotionally self sufficient, how to know whether someone is taking emotional advantage of you, how not to be emotionally dependent on someone. In the teenage, a person is more prone to act on the impulse of emotions rather than rational judgment. They can easily become emotional fools.

Teenage is the crucial time in our lives when we need guidance the most. Ironically it is teenagers who dislike being advised the most. So the healthiest way out for parents is to get involved in their lives as a friend who understands them and treats them as equal but knows more about the outside world. Encourage your child to speak about his friend circle and peer group without passing an extreme judgment or being too preachy. Give your advices as suggestions without belittling his self esteem.

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