From emotional stress to teen pregnancy, there are plenty of reasons to nip serious teen relationships in the bud. However, to discourage these relationships, it takes a delicate balance of trust and parental control, as asserting too much control over your teen's life can lead to flat-out rebellion. No single rule will keep every teen's love life from moving too fast -- you'll have to tailor your approach so that it's appropriate for your teen.
Set the rules and guidelines from the onset. Set age limits for partners, curfews and have an “open-door” policy at home -- meaning no closed bedroom doors when your teen is hanging out at home with her date. These rules can help curb the progression of serious relationships. Be reasonable, but let your teen know that there will be consequences if she breaks the rules.
Encourage your teen to develop a positive sense of self, or personal identity. Support her endeavors and interests including hobbies and extracurricular activities. Teens who have a sense of self-worth and value themselves are less likely to try to "find themselves" in other people, notes Dr. Phil McGraw, psychologist and talk show host. Further, encourage group activities to prevent your teen from having too much alone time with her partner. Group dates are a great way for your teen to continue dating without things getting too serious.
Talk openly with your teen. When you set rules, explain why you set them. Teens need to feel respect and trust as developing adults. Ask questions about your teen's relationships, and really listen to her responses. Let your child know that your resistance to serious relationships doesn't mean you lack trust or faith in her, you simply want her to focus on her own journey into adulthood, not someone else's.
- Have the sex talk. Despite your best efforts, if your teen is diving headfirst into serious relationships, there's an increased chance that she'll have sex. At the very least, make sure that if it does happen, it's safe sex. You can do this by educating your child about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and proper protection.
- Don't belittle or ridicule your teen's relationship. It's easy to peg the emotions of a teenager as “puppy love” or “infatuation,” but keep in mind that those feelings are completely legitimate for your teen, and they may have been legitimate to you at one time in your life. Besides, minimizing your child's feelings is a surefire way to put emotional distance between the two of you.
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