Making Teen Relationships Work
Who can forget the excitement and anxiety of the teen years, when you thought you had fallen in love with your life partner? Your heart beats fast when you simply think of the other person. Your knees grow weak when you see him or her and sometimes you are so shy you can’t even look at each other, let alone speak. It seems like relationships are way more complex these days. The innocence and awkwardness of a new relationship apparently does not exist anymore. There is so much pressure to have a partner, and move in with each other etc. Things seem to move at lightning speed. Some teens are overwhelmed by it all, and others just follow the crowd and get into trouble. How can parents help their teens through this very important stage of their lives?
1. Look at your relationships first
Teens and young adults learn first about relationships from the adults in their lives. It is critically important for parents to realize how their relationships with each other will impact their children’s future relationships. It is a well-known fact that kids raised in abusive relationships tend to be abusive too. Parents must reat each other with respect and care. Teens learn more from our example than from what we say. Single parents must be careful who they expose their teens to. It is not wise to parade several partners in front of your teens. Exposing your children to so many different people can be stressful for them. They may get attached to someone who is here today and gone tomorrow, causing them anxiety and stress and undermining the significance of a committed relationship to them. But, by all means if you are in a serious relationship then introduce your children so they feel part of the whole process. The way we relate to our teens is also very important. Express your love to your teens. Teens give and receive love differently. Take the time to learn what works for your teen and show them you care and they are important to you. Teach them to respect you and their siblings and show kindness to each other. It’s also very important to teach them about accepting responsibility for thier actions and learning to say “I’m sorry,” sincerely. This two word phrase can be very important in their future relationships.
2. Teens must be whole themselves
I love the title of Whoopi Goldberg’s new book, “If someone says you complete me, Run!” There are so many people out there, both teens and adults who have a lot of insecurities and low self-esteem and are looking for someone literally to complete them. That is never a good place to start a relationship. People like this go from one disastrous relationship to another, never stopping long enough to heal and become strong and whole. We as parents have to instill self-confidence and self-esteem in our teens. They have to be happy with who they are and confident in themselves and in their future, then when they meet someone they complement each other. If you don’t love yourself how can you allow anyone else to love you and how can you love someone unselfishly. Also, they must learn that it’s okay to be single. Teens must never feel pressured into a relationship because all their friends have a boyfriend or girlfriend. A relationship started out of the need to just have a partner is bound to fail. Take time to talk to your teens and empower them to realize that they don’t need to be in a relationship to be complete.
3. Teens must know the qualities they are looking for in a partner
Every single time I tell a teen to pray, imagine and then write down the qualities they want in their partner, they laugh at me. They think I am joking, but I’m very serious. If you don’t know what you want in your future partner, how do you recognize him or her when you meet them? I heard a pastor on a TV commercial say, “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll settle for what you get.” No one is saying t you’ll get absolutely what you want. But by taking the time to define who you are looking for, the chances are you’ll get someone close to what you want, or even better. On the flip side, teach teens to look at themselves first. No one is perfect, and teens must recognize their own imperfections and allow for the imperfections of others. They must also pray to become more like who their future partners are looking for. This requires working on themselves and becoming the best that they can be.
4. Teens must expect to be treated with respect and dignity.
Once teens meet, recognize and engage in a relationship with another person, they must treat each other with respect and dignity. They must learn to communicate with each other and take the time to really get to know the other person. Teens should know when they are being disrespected or abused. The overly sensitive and possessive partner may initially make them feel loved, but it’s only a matter of time before your teen no longer has a life outside of the other person. If your teen is more stressed out in a relationship than happy, because they are always explaining one thing or other to their partner, it may be time for them to cool things off. The “honeymoon period” of a new relationship is supposed to be happy and light hearted and full of laughter. They are now getting to know each other. No one should be forced to move the relationship along faster than they are ready for. I seriously advise teens not to begin their relationship with sexual activity. This totally clouds their judgement and does not make for a lasting relationship. Teach them to take the time to get to know and enjoy each other’s company, and decide if the relationship is even worth keeping and then proceed slowly, treating each other with respect and dignity.
As teens start getting into relationships, parents are often very anxious as they stand at the sidelines watching and waiting with bated breath. We can help them by demonstrating what love really looks like, in how we treat our partners and relate to the teens themselves. Teach your teens to have self-esteem and to be happy with who they are. They should never seek “completeness” in a partner. They must be whole before getting into a relationship. Help them develop the good qualities that others look for in relationships and define the qualities they want in their partners. Give them the courage to back out of any relationship which threatens to be abusive. Above all else, pray for them to have wisdom, patience and discernment when getting into any relationship.