In honor of this time of back to school, this week’s Love Essentially addresses how to talk to your teen about dating, love and sex. It’s not easy, but here are some great tips!
7 Tips For Talking To Your Teen About Their Love Life by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Media Group
Last spring, my son’s pediatrician told me that most eighth graders are either thinking about it, or they have already experienced it: kissing and other intimate behavior, which includes sex. To say I was in shock is putting it mildly.
“There is no way,” I responded.
The doctor then gave me a look that said, “Wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs. Buehler.”
So now that my son is about to start high school, it really is time to accept the reality that he will undoubtedly have a love life in the not so distant future.
How should I talk to him about it? What should I do if I find out he’s physically involved with someone? And worst of all, what happens if some girl breaks his kind and gentle heart?
For answers to these questions and more information on how to talk to your teen about dating, love and sex, I reached out to Blair McGuire, a clinical therapist who specializes in seeing adolescents and emerging adults at Courage To Connect Therapeutic Center in Glenview.
McGuire, who previously worked as a high school counselor, said that because they are still developing and constantly trying out new things, which include relationships, teens carry a lot of anxiety.
“I saw so much stress, with kids saying things like, ‘If this person doesn’t like me I can’t go on’ or ‘It’s the end of the world.’ That’s pretty normal,” said McGuire, a licensed clinical professional counselor who also holds a master’s degree in counseling. “It’s their first time experiencing relationships and what they might think is love.”
Here are McGuire’s seven tips for how you can help your teen when it comes to his or her love life:
1. Pay attention to what you do as a parent. If as a parent you can model a healthy relationship with your spouse, which includes good communication, good listening skills, and arguments that are productive versus those that include a lot of screaming, yelling and anger, your teen will learn from that.
2. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with your spouse, that doesn’t mean your child is doomed. Just make sure to have honest conversations which include saying things like, “I know you saw us arguing and what we did wasn’t right.” Also, offer healthy examples of how you wish you would have handled it.
3. Don’t avoid conversations about sex. It’s OK to say, “This conversation makes me uncomfortable, but I love you and I want to have it because I want you to make healthy, safe decisions.” That vulnerability actually makes talking about it more appealing to the kid.
4. Have ongoing dialogue. A one-time conversation about relationships, love and sex won’t have an impact. Look for opportunities to strike up dialogue on the subjects. For example, if you are watching a movie and there is a scene that involves sex or implied sex, ask your teen what their thoughts are. You can say, “Does that seem like a healthy relationship to you?”
5. Listen versus lecturing. Kids often tell their parents about their friends’ romantic relationships. Instead of lecturing or judging, give them a chance to voice their opinion and process their thoughts and feelings. Ask, “What do you think about their relationship?”
6. Schedule weekly alone time. Drop the cellphones, turn off the TV and just spend time talking, not just about school but about everything. If you continually have conversations, eventually love, dating and sex will come up, and they will open up. Also, kids tend to want to talk more at night than in the morning or after school.
7. Don’t freak out if your child tells you he or she is having sex. Your reaction is very important. If you explode, it can cause the teen to become angry and upset, and they might not confide in you anymore.
McGuire said she is conservative in her estimate that at least half of high school kids are having sex. She explained that when a teen first falls in love, they tend to isolate themselves from friends, and when their heart gets broken, it’s important for parents not to make light of it, to help them understand that this is normal and part of life, and to help them see the positives they have in their life: their friends, family, sports, activities and school.
When it comes to your teen’s love life…(click here to read the rest of the article, published in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press)
Like this article? Check out my post, “10 Single Mom Dating Tips.”