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Learning About Helping Your Teen Choose Healthy Romantic Relationships

How can you help?

Our fast-paced, digital world exposes teens to a lot of relationship pressures. Feelings about love, relationships, and sex can be quite complicated.

Here's how to keep your teen talking with you while you guide them toward good choices.

  • Try to understand their world.

    Your teen may have different ideas than you do about dating, love, gender, and sexuality. Be curious about the differences. Emphasize what's most important. Healthy, loving relationships are based on respecting yourself, respecting the other person, and talking openly.

  • Remind your teen that everyone develops differently.

    Just because their friends are dating or are sexually active doesn't mean your teen has to be too. There are many ways to be a teen. And there are many ways to explore feelings or attractions, such as kissing and touching.

  • Talk about consent.

    It's important for teens to be able to discuss what they're comfortable with and feel confident about their choices, without pressure from friends and partners. Ask them if friends have dealt with issues related to consent. Do they feel confident saying yes to things that are okay and saying no to things that aren't okay? Do they feel free to change their mind at any time? Do they know how to make sure that a partner has given consent?

  • Talk about healthy versus unhealthy relationships.
    • Watch for signs of a controlling or jealous dating partner. These signs may include texting all the time or putting limits on who your teen is allowed to hang out with.
    • If you notice signs of abuse, anxiety, or depression, ask your teen about it.
    • Check out www.prevnet.ca/resources/healthy-relationships-tool and www.loveisrespect.org for more tips about healthy relationships.
  • Consider a sex education class.

    Ask your teen's doctor to recommend a program that's in line with your family's goals and values. Sex ed is a safe place for teens to figure out their feelings and set ground rules about healthy relationships. Many classes cover life skills beyond sex or STIs. Your teen can learn to set limits, have a healthy body image, and practice open communication.

  • Explore the gap between the media and real life.

    Dig deeper into stereotypes and fantasy worlds by sharing and asking questions.

    • After a movie, you might say: "I didn't like the dad character. He seemed to have no idea how to parent or help with housework. What did you think?"
    • In response to an image in a magazine, you might ask: "Why do you think the woman in this ad has an empty stare?"
  • Prepare for breakups.

    A teen breakup can cause overwhelming pain, feelings of rejection, and heartache.

    • Validate your teen's feelings, even if they seem dramatic, by saying, "I know this is hard."
    • Make yourself available to simply listen and let your child grieve. That, more than anything, will help them heal.
    • Suggest a social media break. Or schedule a fun day to do some favourite activities.
    • If your teen is depressed for more than 2 weeks, talk with a doctor or counsellor.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.