When our Teen Decision program comes to a school, teens often are often either nervous, or skeptical about our “sex ed” program. I once had someone write me that they’d expected the presenter (me) to be an “old lady with warts” but was pleasantly surprised to find our program fun, informative, and relevant to teens’ real lives. While we do discuss the benefits of abstinence (and the risks of sexual activity), we spend FAR more time talking about relationships, knowing that teaching them how to recognize and have healthy relationships is far more effective in helping teens make good choices about sex than scaring them about teen pregnancy and STDs…although there is a place for healthy fear about these very possible consequences! And you know what? That’s what teens really want to talk about as well…relationships…love! Now that it’s summer, love (or infatuation more likely) may even be blooming for the teen in your home! I found this article about talking to teens about love, and I thought it could help you to talk with the teen in your life about what love is, and how to learn how to BE a healthy person in a healthy relationship. I particularly liked one point the author made, that we can help any young person recognize that a good dating partner is someone who has demonstrated the qualities of a good friend:
What about a younger child who isn’t necessarily old enough for a romantic relationship? Is there a way you could ease into the topic?
The basics, like how to choose a friend. The same skills that kids would use to choose a friend — whether it’s generosity or kindness or loyalty or empathy — those are the same traits they’re going to be looking for later in a relationship. So parents can help guide kids, and they can lead that discussion at home.
I do a lot of work in the younger grades with friendship skills: reciprocity, reflective listening, turn-taking, sharing. All of these very basic skills that you need to teach young kids so that later on, they not only have the skills to maintain a healthy relationship, they’ll know how to identify a healthy relationship, too.