Should I give relationship advice to my teenager? | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Should I give relationship advice to my teenager? 

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My mother was dedicated to making sure we had accurate information about our bodies, including how babies are made. As a nurse, she understood that knowing the facts would help us make better decisions. Granted, she didn't anticipate that I'd decide to sell the information to my Catholic elementary school classmates, but honestly, the market was strong and the money was good (right up until Sister Francis found out).

While my mother hit it out of the park with the reproductive science, the only advice I ever got about falling in love, understanding and expressing my feelings, or how to be in a relationship was, "You're too young."

The truth is, as uncomfortable as it makes us, our teens aren't too young to have crushes or be interested in having a relationship. These are big, important milestones, and we don't want to miss the opportunity to guide them through this rough and beautiful terrain. While it's preferable to begin this conversation before your teen is actually in the thick of a relationship, it's never too late for connection.

On GoodTherapy.org, a mental health resource, an article entitled "Nine Tips for Talking to Teens about Dating and Relationships" suggests helping your teen define the features of a healthy relationship — including mutual respect, honesty and communication. The article also advises discussing what emotional, physical and sexual abuse is and the associated warning signs.

In 2017, Harvard Graduate School of Education's Making Caring Common Project released "The Talk," a report that surveyed more than 3,000 young adults over several years "in an effort to understand young people's romantic and sexual experiences."

The key findings of the report tell a clear story: Large numbers of teens and young adults are unprepared for romantic love, and they lack the knowledge necessary to build respectful, emotional relationships. But they want to know how, and they wish someone would help them.

In fact, "70% of the 18- to 25-year-olds who responded to our survey reported wishing they had received more information from their parents about some emotional aspect of a romantic relationship."

Our teens aren't born knowing what a healthy relationship is any more than they're born knowing how babies are made. And yet, all of this information — from the biological to the emotional — is exactly what they need, and want, to learn from us.

Maybe it's uncomfortable, and maybe we wish our teens weren't growing up so fast. But it's not about us. It's about helping our kids understand how to handle life's toughest stuff, like being vulnerable, sharing love and surviving heartbreak.

And take it from me: If our teens don't get this crucial information from us, you can bet some enterprising kid out there is going to try to sell it to them at a premium.


This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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Autumn Spencer

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