“Love is in the air, and let’s keep it from being a scare”
by school parents Thom Hiatt and Linda Swann,
parent representatives on the SCHS Safety Committee
Butterflies in their stomachs, nervous giggles in the hallways, passing texts between classes... High school love sounds dreamy, right? But for parents, watching their teenagers figure out the confusing world of relationships can be scary.
Just in time for the month of Valentine’s Day, the following tools and tips might help you support your teen through the ups and downs of dating, keeping them safe and confident through their high school years.
Teens crave connection and belonging, so it's natural for them to seek out relationships, especially after they meet someone with whom they have quite a few things in common.
New relationships can be exciting and teach your teen something new about themselves and others. While juggling a variety of emotions, they might feel happier, enthusiastic, and supported while spending more time with their new love interest.
But there can be downsides, too, like neglecting schoolwork, staying up way too late on the phone, relying too much on their partner, spending too much money on dates and gifts, feeling pressured by friends, or the statistically-inevitable breakup!
It is important to help your teen think clearly about WHY they want to date, to make sure it's for the RIGHT reasons, and to know when to end a relationship.
Talking honestly and openly with your teen is key. You can help them feel comfortable coming to you about anything, even the “awkward stuff” like boundaries, consent, and warning signs.
Navigating boundaries, especially physical boundaries, can be a challenging journey, particularly for teenagers who may be exploring these concepts for the first time. As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting your teen by assisting them in identifying what they consider as firm, healthy boundaries.
Consider granting your teen the autonomy to implement their healthy boundaries within the safety of your home, and preferably in a “non-private” area such as the family room or kitchen. As you are talking with your teen, encourage them to set healthy expectations and to share with you the negative influences they see online or hear from friends. Let them know you're there to listen, and not to judge.
If they see or experience something worrying, remind them there are people who can help, including every single employee at Steele; every teacher, every coach, every administrator, and every guard is trained to guide each and every student to the help they need. It’s as easy as saying, “I need your help. Something is happening. I need to talk to someone.”
Despite a couple’s best efforts and intentions, breakups happen, and they can be extremely painful emotionally. When your teen goes through a rough patch, show them you care and that you really do understand. You may share a personal story of your own heartbreak from years ago, but don’t make the conversation about yourself.
Plus, this change may very well open up a new and better door. Just like some relationships end, so do jobs, cars, and even vacations! A job we leave might lead us to a better place to use our talents. A car with too many issues might lead to a new set of wheels. And a vacation that got canceled might help us discover a more beautiful spot to visit in the future.
Not all relationships are healthy. Share with your student about the different types of abuse (emotional, physical, online, financial, bullying, etc.) and what to look out for like controlling behavior, threats, or making them feel bad. Parents may be surprised to know that teens sometimes share their login and passwords to social media with their partners - this is something parents might want to ask their teens about. Remember, safety always comes first.
All relationships should be fair. Talk to your teen about healthy give-and-take and not feeling pressured to do things they're uncomfortable with. Teach them about consent and saying “no” when they want to. Remember that when it’s not fair, or when it’s not balanced, one person is taking advantage of the other.
The Wellness Center at Steele can help students struggling with relationships or other personal issues. These resources are confidential and safe. Encourage your teen to seek help whenever they need it, no matter what's going on.
PARENT QUESTION OF THE MONTH
“My teen loves to have a lot of friends, but they don’t really want to have a significant other right now. However, their friends all seem to be in some kind of relationship. How can I support my teens' choice to just stay single for the time being, and just be good friends?”
It's wonderful that your teen values friendships and wants to remain single at this time. Supporting your teen in this decision is important, and here are some ways you can do so:
Share Positive Stories: Share stories of individuals who have found fulfillment and happiness through strong friendships and personal growth. Remind your teen that there are various paths to happiness, and being single doesn't diminish these experiences.
Celebrate Individuality: Celebrate your teen's unique qualities and individuality. Encourage them to pursue their interests and passions.
Remember that teenagers often navigate challenging social dynamics, and your support plays a crucial role in helping them feel secure in their choices. By fostering open communication and understanding, you can empower your teen to confidently navigate their social life.
EP Hernandez, Class of 2027 Assistant Principal
Parents, we invite you to send your safety-related comments and questions to TakeCare@schscougars.org — we may publish your question anonymously in our newsletter or on the Cougar website. You can visit schscougars.org/take-care to see all of our monthly safety articles, updates and parent questions.