It’s a startling reality that 1 out of 3 adolescents will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and only one-third of them will tell someone else about it.
Enduring dating violence at such a young age puts teens at risk for later developing mental health or substance abuse problems, and makes them more likely to experience domestic violence again in the future.
For these reasons, it’s highly important that parents openly discuss the concept of healthy and unhealthy relationships with their teenagers and help them understand what warning signs to watch for.
Point out examples of both healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors you see in television, movies, and even your own past.
It’s ideal to have both parents present for these talks, if possible.
Seriously, though, when is your child ready to date? "At this age, kids use dating labels but aren’t ready to have much direct one-on-one interaction beyond maybe sitting together at lunch or recess," says Dale Atkins, Ph D, a family therapist in New York.
"Most of the activity happens in a pack, and communication takes place between friend groups." By 8th grade, dating probably means talking on the phone and hanging out, usually in groups.
Make sure your child understands what it means to be in a loving and supporting relationship.
Once you’re done talking, set a good example in your relationship with your significant other.
Michelle Anthony, Ph D, a developmental psychologist and learning therapist in Denver, suggests an opening line like: “It sounds like a lot of kids are talking about dating now. ” If you can't tell what dating means to your kid, try discussing dating as shown on TV shows or in movies that are age-appropriate.
For instance, Atkins suggests asking your child why they think someone acted the way they did, and whether they made a good or healthy choice. It's your job, as their parent, to figure out if your child is ready to handle the level of dating they have in mind.
There are also things you can do to make dating easier for both of you.