We think a lot about domestic violence when it comes to adult relationships, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 teens experiences dating violence.
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If you are raising a teen or will be in the future, make an effort to cultivate a healthy relationship with him or her. Build a foundation that allows you to have open and honest talks about personal subjects. After all, what we learn about relationships throughout our childhood and tweenhood follows us into adulthood.
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As a parent who wishes to cultivate healthy relationships with my children, think it’s imperative to build a strong communication foundation. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of questions to engage your teen when it comes to dating.
1. What Does It Mean to Like Someone?
Ask this question when your teen mentions that he or she likes or has a crush on someone. Asking this question will give you an idea on what the concept means to your child. (We sometimes jump to conclusions!)
I remember the responses I used to get from adults when I liked someone as a teen. It was always: You don’t know anything about liking somebody. Or they would say: You’re too young to like somebody. These statements can make teens feel like their feelings aren’t valid.
Our society tends to put an age on when a teen should start dating or “liking” someone.
When we set an age for when our child should “like” someone, it opens the door for him or her to hide things from us. That broken line of communication could lead to a situation where 13-year-old Billy meets 13-year-old toxic Hannah. You need to know what’s happening in these relationships.
2. How Does This Person Make You Feel?
Honestly, this question is hard for most people to answer because they never sit to think about it. If your teen does not have a response now, it will surely get him or her thinking.
If you have a significant other, consider using that relationship as an example, and show your teen how to put feelings into words.
3. Tell Me All About Him or Her.
Okay, this is not a question but a statement that gives you the chance to listen and find out about this wonderful person your child likes. Hearing from your teen firsthand is a great way to learn more about his or her crush and build connections for future dating-related conversations.
4. What Are Some Things You Like to Do Together?
Perhaps this question feels a bit straightforward, but that’s because it is meant to be. If your teen is dating someone, knowing what the two enjoy doing together can answer a lot of lingering questions you may have about the state of their relationship. How are they spending their time? Are the things they do together healthy and appropriate?
5. What Do You Think Is the Best Thing About Your Relationship?
Just like adults, teenagers fantasize about relationships and romance. Asking this question is a way to learn what teens value in a relationship. Do they expect the person they like to bring them a dozen roses each week? Do they expect their person to be ALL ABOUT THEM, constantly texting and wanting to know what they are doing? Despite what is romanticized in the media, that behavior is NOT healthy relationship behavior.
As parents, we should look for warning signs that our teens are in unhealthy relationships. These questions can help you detect what’s happening when you’re not around. Asking questions — and really listening to the answers — allows you the opportunity to educate your teen on healthy (and unhealthy) situations.
If you need more tools, I recommend Love is Respect. It is a safe space you and/or your teen can go to learn more. There are conversation starters, quizzes, and resources for those who may be in an unhealthy relationship.
If you or someone you know needs helps, you can Call 866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522.
Don’t be afraid when your teenager starts to like someone. Focus on how we can prepare now to avoid harmful relationships.