Dating is a normal and important part of teen development. For younger teens, dating is more about having fun, hanging out peers and exploring what they like. 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. Forming healthy relationships can help teens learn important skills such as cooperation, appropriate behavior, compromise, sensitivity and the ability to understand others’ feelings. According to Michigan State University Extension experts, these skills can lead to future healthy relationships in adulthood.

Everyone wants to be loved and accepted. That’s what makes dating and being in a relationship feel good. But if you notice that your teenager feels hurt, controlled or treated poorly, they may be in an abusive relationship. According to the Dribble Institute there are nine signs of a healthy relationship.

  • Your teen can be themselves!
    • Your teen can express themselves honestly.
    • Your teen can be different from others and enjoy those differences.
    • Your teen’s partner appreciates them for who they are.
    • Your teen is glad to have their partner’s support, but doesn’t need approval.
  • Your teen feels free to:
    • Spend time apart.
    • Enjoy other friends.
    • Be with your family.
    • Stay true to their own values.
    • Speak their honest opinion.
    • Keep up with the activities and interests that are important to them.
  • Your teen’s partner hears what they say.
    • Your teen’s partner shows interest by taking the time to listen.
    • Your teen’s partner looks at them when they talk and lets them finish.
    • Your teen’s partner accepts their feelings.
  • Your teen and their partner can agree to disagree.
    • Your teen and their partner can each give a little to come to an agreement or take turns making decisions.
  • Your teen’s partner respects your boundaries.
    • Your teen and their partner can say: “I can’t be with you every minute.”
  • Your teen and their partner are honest with each other.
    • Your teen can build trust by being honest and kind, even if the truth is disappointing.
  • Your teen and their partner continue to have fun together.
    • Your teen can relax, laugh and enjoy every day simple things together with their partner.
  • Your teen’s partner uses language that lifts them up.
    • Your teen’s partner is encouraging, respectful, appreciative and points out the positives.
  • Your teen takes their time.
  • Your teen takes the time to get to know their partner and what each of them values.
  • Your teen accepts that we all grow and change and relationships do too.

Parents play a very important role in helping their teens learn what is healthy in a relationship and what is not. Parents can also help teens better understand the feelings they experience and how to manage them. Overall, dating during adolescence can pose both promise and problems. While this can be stressful at times 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 expectations and values in relationships can lead to a relationship smart teen!

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.

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