Whether it's your teen's first date or her first long-term boyfriend, you'll probably experience a range of emotions from excited to proud to concerned. But if you go overboard with questions, concerns and restrictions, your daughter might be less likely to share with you the details of her newbie love life. By setting boundaries and giving your daughter a measure of privacy, her relationships can actually bring you together, rather than driving you apart.
Set boundaries for dating and relationships as soon as your daughter starts to show interest in spending more time with boys. While it might be tempting to hover over your teen's shoulder and advise all of her choices, the trick is to set the standards and then allow your teen to make her own choices, notes Dr Phil.com. This gives her freedom within the boundaries that you've set.
Ask questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer to create a fluid -- not smothering -- conversation. If she comes home from a date, instead of asking how it was, try "What was your favorite part of the date?" or "What do you like best about this boy?" That way, you can have an organic conversation with your teen instead of prying for answers.
Invite your teen's date or boyfriend to your home for a casual dinner or get-together. Take the time to get to know him and his character. This can help you relax when your teen is with him outside of the home, with less need for prying and smothering. It also demonstrates that her boyfriend is welcome in your home.
Give your teen an appropriate amount of privacy when she's spending time with a boy. While you might not want to let her close the door to her room while they're inside, if they're watching TV in the living room, offer some privacy by leaving the room.
Listen to your teen, but keep your advice to a minimum, suggests Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting. If you're lucky enough to get your teen to open up to you about her love life, being judgmental or insulting could cause her to stop coming to you in the future. Instead, try asking your teen what she thinks she should do.
Step in only if you feel that the relationship is damaging to your daughter in some way, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org. While it's tempting to disapprove if you think your daughter is dating someone who isn't "good enough" or who you don't personally like for superficial reasons, unless the relationship is unhealthy, it's best to not ask her to end it. If you forbid your teen from dating someone you don't like, you could cause the opposite to happen, driving your teen to his defense and into his arms. Signs of unhealthy relationships, according to HealthyChildren.org include controlling behaviors, intense jealousy, frequent arguing, isolation from family and friends, injuries, sudden behavioral changes and extreme personality changes. If you suspect the relationship is unhealthy, discuss with your daughter and help her end it, which in some cases requires counseling.
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