It’s here before you know it: one minute your forever-baby wants to play with you all day long and now all they want to do is talk, laugh and be with their brand-new crush. Not to fear! By now you’ve done the groundwork of creating a solid foundation of respect and boundaries with your teenager. You’ve raised them to understand body autonomy by discussing consent and safe physical touch at an early age. You’ve created a safe environment for identifying and sharing emotions as you’ve troubleshooted your relationship with each other. You’ve even had important (and maybe awkward) conversations about sex and pleasure. This shiny new stranger provides the perfect opportunity to talk to your teenager about how they can continue to cultivate safe and healthy relationships as they embark into early adulthood.

Tips for talking to your teen about healthy relationships

  • Model healthy behaviors: Reflect on your relationships with your family, friends and partner(s). Do you model respect, trust, support and repair? Your own relationships will inform your teen about how they should expect to be treated.
  • Validate their relationships: Listen with a compassionate ear. Although it may be easy to dismiss their concerns as temporary “puppy love,” these friendships and romantic relationships hold real value and matter to your teen.
  • Be honest: Honor your teen’s growth by being honest about what healthy and unhealthy relationships feel and look like. Treating them like a young adult that can handle the truth about love and manipulation is an important part of their development.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Ask them open-ended questions to get them in a reflective state of mind. You might be surprised at the incredible insight your teenager shows! For example, you can ask:
  • Share your values: Make supportive statements that show your teen you respect their independence and decisions to enter romantic and even sexual relationships, while iterating that you’ll always be there if they need help. You can make statements like:
    • “I want you to have a partners and friends who respect your boundaries.”
    • “I want you to feel safe and comfortable around your partner.”
    • “I want you to enjoy your relationships and friendships.”
    • “I am here for you if you ever feel unsure about what you’re experiencing in your relationships.”

Awesome resources to share with your teenager

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Alex Villeda Alex Villeda, MD, is a 2nd year pediatrics resident at Children's National. As a pediatrics resident, he is in the Leadership in Advocacy, Under-resourced Communities and Health Equity (LAUnCH) Track, which aims to train residents to incorporate community partnerships and public health concepts into the daily practice of medicine in service of under-resourced and marginalized communities.

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