It’s essential as parents to take a look at the gaps between adult views on relationships and teenage views on relationships. Usually as adults, it’s been quite sometime since we had been in a teenage relationship. Our references or experiences are more based in the recent, mature, adult relationships we have had. Society norms, exposure (media and in real life), expectations, and social pressures have changed a bit since our teenage years. It’s important to remember that we don’t know it all and that’s ok- there’s no way that you could. The best way to gather information on how our teams are experiencing their relationships individually, is to ask questions and open a dialogue.
Be Honest About Not Knowing
One of the best ways we can engage our teenagers in conversations about relationships is to be honest. If we can be honest with them about not knowing what their dating or relationship experience is like, we can show them that we want to learn and we want to learn what their individual experiences are like- plus any pressures they may be under. By being completely honest and open, we are showing up as vulnerable, which gives our teenager permission to be vulnerable too. The caveat to this is that while we are being vulnerable and open and honest, we also have to make sure that we are not being judgmental, critical, or preach at them. Teenagers are guarded most of the time with adults- especially their parents wanting to talk about relationships! Any feeling of judgement or criticism could initiate a “teenage system shut down”.
Teenage Relationships are on a Maturity Spectrum
When we are able to create the space to have a conversation with our teenager regarding their relationship, we need to remember that we are coming from a place of adult maturity and experience. Teenagers do not have the maturity level- emotionally, physically or intellectually – that we have as adults. Teenagers are more likely to be pleasure driven, impulsive, and focus on instant gratification. This means that they could be interested in just the romantic attention and validation they get verbally from their peers in regards to their looks or “date-ability”. This could mean that they are just looking for physical pleasure through sexual acts and intimacy. They could like the social status of having a ‘boyfriend/girlfriend/partner’. Or they could genuinely be interested in cultivating an authentic connection with another person- in the short or long term.
If it Feels Confusing… IT IS!
Teenage relationships are confusing for teenagers, so it’s understandable that they are even more confusing for us as adults. The good news is- once again- you don’t have to do it alone. There is information, support, and knowledge out there for you to gain in regards to parenting teens. There is support about effective communication and cultivating space for your teen. Check out our specific workshops for parents of teens to help guide you through the ever-changing world of teenage lives and relationships.