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By Kelli Chambers, LSW – August 21, 2018 –

Navigating the dating world can be intimidating and scary for both parents and teens. Many questions come to mind on how parents can best support their child and foster open communication.

How do we keep our teens safe? Understanding some of the “dos” and “don’ts” for parents will help make the dating process smoother and safer.

Here are some of the “DOs”:

  • Talk to your child about what a healthy relationship looks like. Your teen is more likely to make safer and smarter decisions when choosing a partner and maintaining a relationship when the expectations and definition of a healthy relationship are clear. Keep in mind, dating information for many teens comes from what is portrayed in the media, which is meant for entertainment purposes and may not be realistic.
  • Have a two-way conversation with your teen about dating. When teens feel they have a voice and are heard, they are more likely to abide by the guidelines everyone has agreed upon. Some good topics to discuss are curfew, group dating, private dating, meeting their date, and how to keep parents informed on their whereabouts and well-being.
  • Talk about safe sex. This includes the choice of remaining abstinent, using birth control, and understanding the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. This is also a good time to speak with your teen about sexting. Establishing ground rules for using smart phones and social media is another way to keep your child safe and protected.
  • Discuss what to do when they are feeling unsafe. You and your child need to have a plan in place to help when they are feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. Have a texting code between you and your teen to help them get out of the situation they are in if needed. Your teen should never meet up with anyone they’ve only met online and have not physically met in person.
  • Keep a watchful eye out for danger signs in your dating teenager. It is important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Some key signs to look for are jealousy, possessiveness, anxiety, bruising, low self-esteem, and depression.

Here are some “DON’Ts”:

  • Don’t stop talking to your teen about their relationships after dating starts. Continue to be invested in your teen’s dating life. Not all relationships are the same and they will need to have continued support.
  • Don’t be overprotective or too “hands off.” Being too overprotective can be harmful to your relationship and your teen may no longer feel comfortable confiding in you. Being too “hands off” allows your teen to be less monitored and can lead to poor decision making. Try to find a healthy balance between the two.
  • Don’t be too afraid to “VETO.” Sometimes interfering and vetoing a toxic or dangerous relationship is necessary. Your teen may be upset with you at the time, but their safety and wellbeing is the utmost priority.

Dating should be a fun time in your teen’s life, but it is also a learning process. Like any life experience, your teen will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Your support and involvement in your teenager’s dating life will help your child make smarter and safer decisions.

By Kelli Chambers, MSW, Courier & Press, June 27, 2017 –

The teenage years can be some of the best, and hardest, years in a person’s life.  During this stage of life, teenagers are often faced with difficult situations and struggle to make healthy and safe choices.

It can be challenging (and even scary) for parents to protect their teen from potentially harmful situations.  There are some basic guidelines to follow, however, to assist your child in the decision-making process.

As your child gets older, parenting becomes less about control and more about offering guidance.  According to parenting guidelines on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s website (pamf.org), the more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens tend to become.

Providing a solid foundation of trust and love allows for an open dialogue of sharing experiences and values while spending time together.  It is important to remember it is normal for teens to challenge their parents’ values, beliefs, and practices.  This is an exploratory time for teenagers to develop their own autonomy.

Here are some quick tips to help parents convey their support while allowing the teen to make their own decisions:

  • Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
  • Talk with your teen about choices.
  • Help your teen identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
  • Allow your teen to make decisions and carry them out.
  • Later, ask your teen how things worked out.

Helping build your teen’s self-esteem and self-respect can positively influence their decision-making process. Parents can help by:

  • Allowing the teen to voice their personal opinions
  • Involving the teen in decisions that may affect the entire family
  • Listening to his or her opinions and feelings
  • Helping the teen set realistic goals
  • Showing faith in his or her ability to reach those goals
  • Giving the teen unconditional love and demonstrating it
  • Being supportive, even when he or she makes mistakes
  • Being open and understanding whenever your teen needs to talk to someone

Teens need reinforcement from important adults in their lives.  This applies to the good decisions being made, too.  It helps teens feel they are on the right path.

It is easy to focus on bad decisions being made, but both good and bad decisions need to be discussed.  The best prevention tool is to start early with an open and honest dialogue.

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers