You just found out that your teen is dating. Your worries start to surge. Can they cope with school? How far have they progressed? Most importantly, how should you respond?
While it may be uncomfortable to imagine, remember that romantic interests are normal and healthy during adolescence. Regardless of when it starts, most teens are eventually going to be interested in dating . Seek to embrace this new situation and guide them along this journey.
So, what are some things that you can do to help them?
Talk to your teen: Having a heart-to-heart talk after discovering your teen’s relationship is important. Approach them in a gentle and non-confrontational manner to help your teen feel safe and comfortable. Bringing up questions like how your teen feels about dating or what they look for in romantic partner are great ways to get the ball rolling . They allow you to address any misconceptions of love, grasp their concept of dating and their reasons to date now. However, you must know when to back down if your teen is not willing to share their thoughts .
Invite your teen’s partner over: There is no better way to know your teen’s significant other than to invite them over for dinner or a family outing . Before you dive into the topic of love and dating, break the ice by doing a recreational activity together. Create a welcoming and friendly environment where you can observe your teen and their partner interact .
Remind them to be safe: It may be difficult for you to check on your teen’s behaviour as they are more independent at this age. Talk to them about drawing boundaries and warn them against abusive behaviour, such as hitting or screaming. Make sure to establish curfews, reinforce values that you hold close to heart and address the ‘whys’ behind them. Assure them that you have their best interests at heart and will be there to help them at every point of the relationship .
Be cautious, however, not to push your teen away from you by doing the following actions:
Instantly disapprove of their relationship: Instantly disapproving of your teen’s relationship could backfire and discourage them from being honest with you. Earning your teen’s trust is key in journeying with them through life. Use this as an opportunity to impart values and let them experience the joys and pitfalls of their relationship with your guidance and support .
Criticise your teen’s partner: It is not worth ruining the mutual respect built between you and your teen over their dating choices. Try understanding whether this dislike for your teen’s significant other comes from personal bias or a genuine concern about the person . Openly showing your disdain towards your teen’s partner might only make them more rebellious, and inadvertently strain your relationship with your teen. Instead, gather information and approach the situation with an open mind. It is unwise to try to push or control the situation. Focus on providing gentle guidance and support while protecting what is important – the strong and loving bond with your teen .
Invade your teen’s privacy: Aim to offer your teen some privacy in their relationship. You should not ask to see texts exchanged between your teen and their partner or eavesdrop on their phone calls. Having a growing amount of freedom and ability to make their own choices is a key part of growing up and developing the skills they need as functioning adults . You can, however, emphasise certain rules such as coming home before a curfew and keeping the bedroom door open if your teen has invited their partner over .
While navigating your teen’s relationship can be challenging, you can use this opportunity to strengthen the relationship and help them to develop as a person. Let them know that they can share with you about anything in life. Be available for your teen throughout their relationship and guide them to make the best possible dating choices. Do not judge or comment on the relationship.
Otherwise, your teen might not trust you and start keeping details about the relationship from you. In such situations, it is more important for you to be supportive and keep channels of communication open as your teen is also navigating transitions and experiencing new emotions.
TOUCH Parenting aims to strengthen parent-child relationships by providing parents with relevant parenting resources through every stage of their parenting journey. It conducts informative talks and workshops which empower parents with knowledge on preparing for and raising a new-born, navigating the digital age with their child, parent-child communication, and nurturing resilient children and youths. It is also appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development as the Parent Support Provider (PSP) for Primary and Secondary schools in Singapore.
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3. Gordon, Sherri. “What to Do When You Don't like Who Your Teen Is Dating.” Verywell Family, 6 May 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/disliking-who-teen-is-dating-4177850
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5. Denise Witmer. “Why teens need privacy from their parents?” Verywell Family, 31 Oct. 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-does-my-teen-need-privacy-2609615