I was sitting at my middle school son’s football game. Some parents around me were discussing who was dating who in the school. I kept quiet during the conversation, but was anxiously waiting for them to mention my son. They did. I was astonished and a little embarrassed because I was totally unaware my son was “dating.” I knew for a fact he didn’t go anywhere with anyone. That’s what I consider “dating.” All he did was talk on his phone.
How does that constitute dating?
As soon as we left the game, I must confess I blindsided him with the question, “How is your girlfriend?” [Mom Smirk.] He gave me one of those looks only a teenager could give. “Mom, I don’t have a girlfriend.” [Teen Eye Roll.] “That’s not what I heard.” The more we went back and forth, the more frustrated he became, and the angrier I became. He was ADAMANT he didn’t have a girlfriend. Truth be told, I was confused. I soon recognized that not believing him was damaging our relationship.
How could I have prevented this from happening?
Could I have better engaged my son in a conversation about his “romantic relationship?”
How can my misstep help you?
Learn The Language
This is a time when the teacher becomes the student. Be humble and allow your teen to teach you the new relationship lingo. Your willingness to learn and listen shows you respect your teen’s perspective and you care about what’s going on in their world.
Recognize and Accept Things Have Changed
When your teen says things have changed, believe them. The words and labels they use—DIFFERENT. The modes of communication they use—DIFFERENT. The definition of relationships—DIFFERENT. Trying to impose the “old way” on them will be met with rolled eyes, resistance, or worse.
Be An Askable Parent When You Talk to Your Teen About Romantic Relationships
Take time to listen. Be open and genuine. You might hear some “stuff” that shocks or surprises you. You have to use your poker face. You’ll be tempted to turn a conversation into an interrogation. If your teen perceives a negative reaction from you or gets bombarded with a billion questions or a long lecture, it can cause them to stop talking and create distance.
⇨ Related: How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?
Build Up Your Relationship
Cultivating and maintaining your relationship with your teen provides space for this conversation. As your teen grows, your relationship with them should grow from more directive to coaching them through life and relationships. The more you try to control or force a relationship with your teen, the more they can pull away from you.
If your teen says they are in a romantic relationship, here are some conversation starters to ask your teen:
- Are you able to be yourself in the relationship?
- Do you show respect and feel respected in your relationship?
- Do you have realistic expectations about the relationship?
- Are you feeling pressured in your relationship?
- Do you feel you have the time to devote to the relationship?
The key to guiding your teen through romantic relationships is to stop being a talkative parent and become a parent your teen wants to talk to. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen builds and supports the relationship.
Sure, “dating” might look different now, but there is still no substitute for a close, healthy relationship with your teen.