Today’s Guest Blog comes from Rachel Dack, a relationship expert for DatingAdvice.com. Dack is a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), nationally certified counselor and relationship coach. She is also a co-author of "Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life," an international bestseller written to support single women in forming and maintaining healthy, loving relationships. This week, we focus on how parents can impact their teenager’s relationships and sex life in a positive way.
Many parents operate under the belief that their teenagers do not listen to or value what they say. During particularly rebellious phases that occur during adolescence, many parents feel unheard and frustrated, and fail to realize that their teens are still looking to them as a guide and model for relationships. These common misconceptions, paired with the uncomfortable nature of topics, such as romantic relationships and sexuality, may lead parents to avoid important and necessary discussions altogether with their adolescents.
Despite what your teenager has you believing and what they may not verbalize, your opinion does matter to your teen. Your level of support and involvement is essential to your teen’s health and wellbeing. While your teen might have mastered treating you with an indifferent or disengaged attitude, your teenager does look to you for encouragement more than it might seem.
The relationship between a parent and adolescent serves as a model for relationships. The quality and strength of the parent-child bond influences the quality of your teen’s other relationships. Modeling and engaging in effective, honest and open communication helps your teenager utilize healthy communication in other relationships.If you wonder whether it is worth bringing up difficult subjects, such as sex, picture yourself as an important role model, valuable resource and confidant for your teen. You have a powerful influence over your teen’s choices and behavior, and it is essential to use this position wisely.
Romantic relationships in adolescence may be characterized as short-lived or overly dramatic, but these relationships play a substantial role in a teen’s quality of life and mental health. It is common for parents and other adults to overlook or dismiss these relationships. However, parents should be attentive to their teens’ needs, experiences and emotions.
Even if romantic relationships seem trivial to parents, they are actually appropriate during adolescence. It’s healthy for adolescents to explore romance, intimacy and partnerships, as well as to develop a sense of self and autonomy. Romantic relationships can be complex for adolescents to navigate. Therefore, a strong parent-adolescent bond and appropriate modeling are essential.
Kids and teens also have a natural curiosity about sex, which is healthy. However, your teen may fear being shamed, humiliated or getting in trouble, which can equate to secrets and barriers to communicating about sexuality and relationships. Conversations about sex might not come easily at first. It is important to talk early on to your kids about sex in age-appropriate ways to ensure that your teen has the right information about sex and the opportunity to ask questions to a trusted source. If the topic of sex is avoided between parent and child, the child will learn about sex from outside influences, which often results in inaccurate and unhelpful information. A lack of proper guidance about sex from parents may result in risky sexual behaviors and poor decision-making.
Your own choices about sex and relationships serve as modeling and teaching for your teen. Regardless of your marital status, your teen will pick up on how you treat your partner or spouse, how sex is viewed, how you talk about ex-partners, how you handle being single or dating and who you welcome into your home. You have the opportunity to teach your teenager how to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships, including warning signs and red flags of unhealthy or abusive relationships. You may wonder how to bring up matters such as sex and relationships with your children and adolescents. It is normal to feel unsure about what to say and when. Online resources can offer support.
Lastly, a few tips on effective communication with your teen:
- Commit to having conversations about sex early on and allow them to continue and expand over time with your child’s growing age and maturity.
- View each dialogue as a safe space for your child/teen to ask you questions and for you to discover what your teen knows about sex.
- Stay clear of big talks that overwhelm and intimidate your teen. You are there as a gentle authority to facilitate continued guidance and to aid your teen in making smart choices about sex and relationships. As open communication becomes the norm between you and your teen, your teen will be more likely to discuss a variety of issues with you.