Teens slowly become adults during their adolescence, and one of the most common experiences is entering into a committed relationship. While some teens choose to remain unattached, others fall right into serious relationships that can seem very adult. If your teen is in a committed relationship, take note of the pros and cons. As long as you keep the lines of communication open, you can help your teen navigate the waters of her first serious relationship safely.
While you may not love the idea of your teen getting serious, a committed relationship does have its benefits. In fact, a study published in a July 2011 issue of "Journal of Youth and Adolescence" found that teens in committed relationships were less likely to develop delinquent behavior. Such relationships also give you the chance to talk to your teen about mature feelings that might still be new to him and help him learn about relationships in general. You can also talk to your teen about what he should want in a relationship and how to treat the other person respectfully.
One of the main disadvantages to committed teen relationships is that they can isolate the teens involved. When she's in a serious relationship, your teen might be less likely to hang out with her friends, participate in extracurriculars or meet new people. Teens may also confuse infatuation with real love. Sexual activity is another issue that can cause concerns, especially if your teen is in a long-term relationship. Finally, dealing with the end of a committed relationship can be especially difficult for teens, who haven't yet developed the emotional maturity necessary to deal with the adult feelings of a breakup.
It's important that you watch for signs your teen is in a healthy, committed relationship. Teens are emotional and dramatic, which can make even committed relationships unhealthy. Talk to your teen about what it takes to have a healthy relationship, like mutual respect and the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully. Help him recognize the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, like obsession, anger, aggression, pressure and isolation from friends and family.
The Guttmacher Institute reports that in sexually experienced teens, 70 percent of females and 56 percent of males say their first experience was with a steady partner. Therefore, it's important -- if a bit awkward -- to talk to your teen about sexual health. This includes whether you'd like her to abstain, but should also cover birth control and safe-sex practices should she choose to have sex. Give your teen the facts so she can make an informed choice to have safe sex if and when the time comes.
- Journal of Youth and Adolescence: Adolescent Sexual Activity and the Development of Delinquent Behavior: The Role of Relationship Context
- University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Is Your Teen Relationship Smart?
- HealthFinder.gov: Talk with Your Teen about Healthy Relationships
- Guttmacher Institute: Facts on American Teens' Sexual and Reproductive Health
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