Mom, I am going out on a date…

Is your teen relationship smart?

Is your teen ready to date? Are you ready for your teen to date?

Did you know that nearly 30 percent of 12- to 13-year-olds experience a romantic relationship each year compared to about 50 percent of 15- to 16-year-olds, and 70 percent of 17- to 18-year-olds, according to the Dibble Institute.

Dating is a normal and important part of teen development. For younger teens, dating is more about having fun, hanging out with peers and exploring what they like. Early on, most of their time is spent in same gender peer groups, but eventually they begin to go out on “group dates” where their peer group becomes mixed-gender.

As teens get older, they are more likely to become involved in exclusive dating relationships. For older teens, dating begins to focus more on companionship, sharing thoughts and feelings and social support. While extremely intense, these relationships are typically short lived and about half end within one year. For teens, these relationships, even when short lived, can have important implications for their development and emotional wellbeing.

Dating is an opportunity for teens to learn about themselves and what they want in a future long term committed relationship. Forming healthy relationships can help teens learn important skills such as cooperation, appropriate behavior, compromise, sensitivity and the ability to understand others feelings. These skills can lead to future healthy relationships in adulthood. On the other hand, unhealthy relationships can put teens at risk for early sexual activity, depression and forming poor social skills.

Adolescence is a time when teens are developing both emotionally and physically, and these changes can either have a positive or negative influence on a teen’s judgment and behavior in a dating relationship. Does your teen have the emotional intelligence to handle challenging situations in his or her dating relationships?

According to Michigan State University Extension, parents play a very important role in helping their teens learn what is healthy in a relationship and what is not. Here are a few things you can do to help your teen become relationship smart:

  • Be open and sensitive when talking with your teen.
  • Maintain a caring, supportive relationship with your teen.
  • Share your own relationship experiences with your definition of a healthy versus unhealthy relationship.
  • Keep up with your teen’s schedule and activities.
  • Learn about your teen’s friends.
  • Join your teen in various activities.
  • Work together to form clear expectations and rules on dating.

Overall, dating during adolescence can pose both promise and problems. While this can be a stressful time for parents, it can be an even more stressful experience for teens. Providing a safe and secure base for your teen to communicate with you openly about his or her relationships and helping your teen think about his or her expectations and values in relationships can lead to a relationship smart teen!

If you want more information regarding raising teenagers check out the Building Strong Adolescent program.

To contact an expert in your area, visit people.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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