So Your Teen is Dating — Here's What You Need to Know

Does anyone ever forget their first real relationship? The butterflies. Thinking about that person 24/7. Obsessing over their every move and phrase. Daydreaming about spending next weekend, the entire summer vacation, the rest of your life with them. And then the unbearable heartache when it all came to an end. And if you thought navigating your first real relationship was tough, it’s possibly even harder for your teen. As well as all the same feelings and insecurities and desires and can’t-stop-thinking-about-them stretches of time between dates, your teen is facing the numerous added complications that are intrinsically linked to a relationship in the digital age. And as a parent, you probably (maybe) only just got the hang of their never-ending succession of distant crushes; what can you possibly do to help your teen through their first real relationship?

You may not be able to do anything about those teenage social media spats, but what you can do is make yourself available as a trustworthy confidante — without being too intrusive or cringe-inducing, of course. It’s a fine line, but if you get it right, you can stay connected with your teen even though you’re no longer the main object of their affection like you were when they were a toddler.

“Your teen may not want to share everything with you, the same way as you wouldn’t want to share your romantic interests with your parents,” licensed clinical psychologist Kevon Owen tells SheKnows. “But if they do share, don’t make them regret the decision.” In other words: No breaking their confidence to other family members. “Your teenager’s first relationship is not only going to teach them how to be in a relationship; it’s also going to teach them how their family will handle their first relationship,” says Owen. “Keep the doors open.”

And when it comes to sharing, psychotherapist Emily Roberts warns parents not to give advice — or launch into a “when I was your age” monologue about their own dating experiences — right off the bat. “Sometimes, parents want to share too much right after their teen is vulnerable. But being vulnerable is exhausting, and they may not have the energy to hear you yet. And that could lead to a potential argument,” she tells SheKnows. Her advice? “Instead of recounting your high school relationships, ask if they want to hear about it sometime rather than that moment; it leaves the door open for the next conversation.”

Roberts also warns parents against expressing any judgments about their teen’s partner. “Many young women I work with have a lot of anxiety about talking to their parents about romantic relationships, even as adults, due to early experiences as teens,” she says. “Sarcasm is something adults use often; understand that your teen takes it as invalidation. Saying things like, ‘You really like that guy?’ makes your teen feel like their feelings are wrong.” Plus, it acts as a barrier to communication, meaning your teen is unlikely to come to you the next time they have something they want to share.

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