The relationships that teenagers build are some of the most important bonds that they have. Humans are naturally social, and having a solid group of people to rely on is important for their well-being. But just because your teen has people in their life doesn’t mean they have a good relationship. As a parent, it is part of your job to make sure that you are teaching them how to build these relationships in a healthy manner.
Model Healthy Behaviors
One of the best ways you can help your teen understand how a healthy relationship works is by showing them in your own relationships. This includes romantic relationships, family dynamics, friendships, professional relationships, and all other areas of life. Teens often look for and mimic what they see in their own lives, so having healthy relationship models is incredibly important to help them have good expectations. Modeling healthy relationship behaviors doesn’t just mean showing them the good stuff though. It is important for them to understand that healthy relationships can still have conflict and disagreements. Obviously, you should make sure that they aren’t feeling drawn into these disagreements, but you shouldn’t hide all the harder parts of life from them.
Have Open Conversations
In addition to modeling healthy relationship behavior, it is important to have open conversations with them about what they are seeing, both from you and from their peers. If you don’t have a healthy level of communication, it can be difficult to help them understand why or why not things in a relationship are healthy. Your teen should feel safe coming to you about issues in their friendships or romantic relationships. The best way to create this environment is to make sure that they understand that you aren’t judging or condemning them, you just want to help them. You can even work through roleplaying how they can handle situations that they are dealing with. Some teens can also benefit from talking to mentors or a therapist to get an outside perspective as well.
Meet Them Where They Are
Not every teen is ready for a deep conversation about their relationships or is ready to recognize that something isn’t ideal. As long as the relationship isn’t abusive, having a hard time and not handling things in the best way possible can be a good learning experience. Don’t force your way into conversations that they aren’t ready to have. Let them bring their concerns to you, and meet them where they are at. Especially in romantic relationships, many teens have idealized views of what things should be like. You can give them advice and help them to the best of your ability, but you also have to let them make mistakes.
As a parent, you are uniquely suited to provide your teen with the example and tools that they need to build healthy relationships with their peers and other people in their lives. The relationships they build now will help them springboard successfully into adult life, so make sure you are taking an active role in helping them.
Do you want to help other teens learn about healthy relationships? Click here to learn more about becoming a mentor!