Parental involvement at an early stage is essential to help teenagers build healthy relationships with the opposite sex. During this season when our teenage children are just discovering more about the opposite sex, early dating can short circuit this process and shrink one’s circle of friends when they focus all their energy on just one person.
Also, studies have shown that teenagers who enter into relationships when they are not ready are more susceptible to having premarital sex and seem to perform poorer at school, among other problems.
Hence, “Relax, it’s just a date” (April 14), might not necessarily be as casual as it sounds. Dating, is normally an intentional exploration of moving towards exclusivity. It is that stage between friendship and a steady relationship for the boy and girl.
As such, it is both crucial and beneficial for parents to be involved in shaping their children’s relationship decisions from a young age. As our children grow into teenagers, they will tend to resist parental involvement in this very personal area of love and relationships. Setting the right tone from young will help to increase their receptivity to guidance and support from their parents, especially when finding a life partner.
As parents, there is a natural tendency to focus on our children’s academic and eventual career achievements; but we should also equip them for success when relating to the opposite sex and on matters of the heart. Conversations on defining the stages of a relationship, the best age to start dating, and setting appropriate boundaries are as important as our discussions with them on their school grades.
It all begins with us, as parents imparting and modeling good values like responsibility and respect to our children and painting a vision of a healthy relationship. The decisions they make about relationships will then likely be driven by these values.
There is also a need to constantly affirm our children’s self-esteem and self-worth, lest they seek to find affirmation elsewhere like in an unhealthy relationship.
Finally, engaging our children and maintaining open communication lines will also reduce the possibility of them turning only to their friends or the media when they have questions about dating in the future.
Mrs Dinah Lee-Phua
Head, Research & Development
Focus on the Family Singapore