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    Talking To Your Teen About Love And Relationships

    By Priyanka Bakshi
    19 Mar'22  7 min read
    Talking To Your Teen About Love And Relationships
    Synopsis

    Teenage is indeed a sensitive period, and is usually when individuals begin exploring relationships and developing their own ideas about them. Having reliable people around, whom they can freely talk to would be something that most teenagers look for during this time. It’s not easy talking to teenagers about love and relationships. Parents might be as sceptical as their children when it comes to such matters, but it is important that they have this conversation. In this article, we take a look at a few ways that will help you talk to your child about romantic relationships, responsibilities, and boundaries.

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    Talking To Your Teen About Love And Relationships
    Synopsis

    Teenage is indeed a sensitive period, and is usually when individuals begin exploring relationships and developing their own ideas about them. Having reliable people around, whom they can freely talk to would be something that most teenagers look for during this time. It’s not easy talking to teenagers about love and relationships. Parents might be as sceptical as their children when it comes to such matters, but it is important that they have this conversation. In this article, we take a look at a few ways that will help you talk to your child about romantic relationships, responsibilities, and boundaries.

    Read more

    With the birth of a child, a parent also takes birth. While parenthood is an evolutionary journey and one learns at each step of being a parent, there might be times when parents feel like they need someone to handhold them. In my experience as a child and adolescent psychologist, I have realised that one such point where parents often find themselves in a dilemma is when their children enter teenage and begin to demand autonomy to explore the world and people in their own way.

    This demand for greater autonomy often includes, or is accompanied by the desire to experience romantic relationships, which parents may or may not be easily able to come to terms with. In fact, a lot of times I have seen that parents feel that their child is old enough to behave maturely and take responsibilities, but too young to start dating.

    What Causes Parents To Hesitate

    It is true that with the advent of technology, the dynamics of dating and relationships have changed. Teens nowadays stay connected with each other 24 x 7, and there are a variety of online platforms for them to stay abreast with each other’s worlds. However, the general wish or drive towards exploration is the same as it has always been. This can make it even more challenging for the parents to figure out how they should go about talking to their teens about the latter’s romantic lives, and educating them about physical and emotional safety. Also, it might sometimes be uncomfortable for parents to talk to their children about the latter’s love life, mainly because it has not been a common practice in our cultural setup. However, being prepared may help them feel more confident, and initiate such conversations well.

    First of all, all those parents who feel hesitant need to breathe, and introspect on what is causing them discomfort while considering talking to their child about the latter’s love life. Many a time, our own preconceived notions and already set beliefs come in the way and influence our thinking. If you feel it is not the right time or the child is too young for this, this belief may definitely hinder a potential discussion. We teach our teenage children academics, etiquette, help them in setting goals, and much more, but rarely prioritise guiding them about how to handle attractions and romantic relationships.

    Why Such Conversations Are Important

    It is important to know why this kind of engagement is required from a parent’s end. Romantic relationships might put a teenager through a variety of social and emotional experiences, including turmoil, and these feelings have the capacity to form your child’s understanding of concepts such as care, concern, sharing, adaptation, compromise, and love, which further may influence the quality of intimate relationships they form in the future, and also how they experiment with boundaries. One thing I would like to clarify here is that it is not a mandate for every teenager to be in a relationship. A teen may have no love interest but other priorities, such as academics, sports, hobbies, and so on.

    When it is encouraged in the family to talk about feelings, friendships, and relationships, it can help children/teenagers feel confident to talk about their relationships and other related experiences to their parents. Such conversations may also serve as a base for parents to educate their kids with the essential, age-appropriate values, such as saying ‘NO’ when not feeling comfortable, respecting others’ boundaries, not giving or receiving toxicity, balancing academics, career, hobbies, and relationships, and so on. However, when planning to speak to your child about such sensitive matters, make sure you create an environment that is free of any kind of judgement, critical evaluation, or character shaming. It’s important to understand that your teenager would come up to you and share their private matters without hesitating only if they feel safe and secure.

    How To Talk To Your Teen About Love And Relationships

    child responsibilities, child boundaries, child romantic relationshipsTalk To Your Teen About Creating Healthy Boundaries

    There is no doubt about the fact that direct and face-to-face conversations can be tricky, intimate, and quite intimidating for your child, especially if you bombard them with questions one after another. Remember, they can very well gauge their parents’ level of anxiety, and perception about romantic relationships too. The interaction should be candid and empathetic, and the kids should not be made to feel like they are being interrogated. Therefore, engage in listening rather than lecturing. While having such conversations with teens, remember to show genuine curiosity, and let your child be the expert of their own experiences and feelings. One tip I would give here is that these discussions are often easier to take up while engaged in an activity such as being out for a walk together, watching a movie together, or doing some household chores together. When you feel that the time is appropriate to initiate such conversations with your child, you may cover some crucial elements like the following.

    • You may explain to your child that a healthy relationship is grounded in respect, trust, honesty, and transparent communication patterns.
    • Explain to them the concept of healthy boundaries. It must be explained that boundaries keep everyone safe, emotionally, physically, and psychologically too. So if they feel that the boundaries are getting crossed, or they feel unsafe with someone at any point in time, they must reach out for help to people they trust.
    • Remind them that it’s alright to say ‘NO’ to someone gently. This might hurt the person initially, but would keep the honesty and trust with the self and others intact.
    • Explore and talk to them about different emotions they feel while meeting with their person of interest/partner. Help them in identifying the different sensations they feel when someone praises them or asks them out. Teach them to think from all aspects and to not take any decision based entirely on emotions.
    • Talk about ups and downs in relationships. Here, parents can talk about their own experiences. Life is not always rosy, there will be moments of conflicts and disagreements. However, these fluctuations and disappointments are a part and parcel of life, not the end of it. Help your kids build a perspective around it.
    • Encourage them to introspect on how they are maintaining a balance between academic goals, personal goals, and their relationship. It will be helpful for your teen to have an overall perspective about the different aspects of their lives.
    • Speak to your child appropriately about the physical aspects of a romantic relationship, and how they must be careful while making any related choices. Make sure that this conversation is neutral and objective in nature, and not coloured by any personal biases. Initial hesitation, as I mentioned earlier, is natural, but your kids would rather learn the correct thing from you, than an incorrect thing from someone/somewhere else.
    • While you speak to your child about such sensitive topics, there might be instances from your own personal life that may be touched upon, for e.g, some imbalances in your relationship with your spouse that your child may have witnessed. Make sure you properly address each such concern that arises.
    • Also, it’s important for the parents to understand that there might be some moments in discussion when they would feel anxious, angry, or disappointed. If you feel that you need time to calm down or gather their thoughts before taking the conversation forward, then make sure you are honestly letting your child know about it. Assure your child that you would take the topic forward soon.

    Parents should ideally be the safest haven for their children. The expectations and needs that children develop towards their parents are likely to evolve as they grow up. As parents, you must make sure that you are there for your children in all possible ways, at all stages of life, while knowing where to draw the line such that you don’t become interfering. It is then likely that your child shall evolve into a secure and fulfilled individual.

    Priyanka Bakshi is a child psychologist accredited by the Rehabilitation Council Of India (RCI). She holds extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and their parents work towards socio-emotional wellness, and heads the Child Guidance And Counselling vertical at Daffodils Therapy Studio, New Delhi.

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