- Will You Say No To Dating?
For the Whole of Their Life.
Will You Say No To Dating?
Do you remember your first school yard crush? The excitement combined with a stomach full of butterflies as he or she walked by you during playtime? The daydreaming of the future, when you might participate in the risky activity of holding hands. Even though many of us personally have been in this place before, it can be difficult for us to appreciate the impact that romantic relationships have on our adolescent lives. However, research shows that considering romantic relationships warrants much more attention than traditionally given.
We need to recognise that these romantic relationships and experiences are felt to some degree by all individuals, whether real, potential or fantasied; they impact significantly on the emotional and social development of a young person and also lay foundations for romantic relationships in adulthood. So, wondering or not if you've made the right call on dating rules in your household? To help you make an informed decision, there are some pros and cons that research has discovered.
Involvement in romantic relationships is developmentally appropriate and healthy in adolescence as it provides a valuable opportunity for young people to work towards achieving things such as:
Emotional Autonomy and/or Independence
- From the family unit and peers.
- Contributes to the young person's sense of who they are, what they believe and their development of self-esteem, self worth, confidence and level acceptance/popularity among peers.
- How they see themselves in romantic relationships and contributes to the development/exploration of sexual identity.
Along with opportunities, romantic relationships also bring challenges to adolescents lives. In addition to the challenges that come with building, nurturing and ending romantic relationships, young people face additional hurdles to;
Ability to Regulate/Manage Strong Emotions
- Facilitated through experiencing a wide range of intense emotions within a relationship and experience of coping with breakups.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills (In particular conflict negation skills)
- Knowing how and when to compromise.
- Learning how to develop and nurture intimate relationship.
Along with the opportunities mentioned above, romantic relationships may also bring many new challenges to an adolescents life. Challenges that come with building, nurturing and ending romantic relationships in adolescents can come from;
Inexperience (Little or no experience)
- Inexperience can bring fear of the unknown - uncertainty around what's expected and associated risks such as engaging in impulsive sexual behaviour.
- It also means that young people cannot rely on the benefit of past experience when trying to problem solve relationship difficulties or gain perspective on them.
Age and Stage of Development
- Adolescents' may be more vulnerable to experiencing negative self-concept following negative romantic experience or a breakup as their sense of identity is still developing.
- They also may find things harder to process, to think through the consequences of their actions and control their emotions as their brains are still developing.
- A young person may exclude or neglect close friends to spend time with their partner which can cause feelings of guilt from individual dating, and feelings of anger, hurt and jealousy from friends who feel neglected. This can then lead to the deterioration of the quality of friendship or may even end them.
- Similarly this can too affect family relationships, which can cause tension or conflict.
Teen Brains Under Construction: Have you ever asked your teenager the reasons why they have done something and you are met with the reply “I don’t know?” Chances are, they do not actually know the reasons for why they have just said what they said, why they had that emotional outburst or why they have just participated in that risk-taking behaviour.
So Should Involvement Be Encouraged or Avoided?
Romantic relationships cannot be generalised as being either 'good' or 'bad' for adolescent development, as benefits and risks co-exist, but they do warrant out intentional attention. Even though relationships may be short lived, they can have a major impact on a young person's day-to-day life and influence significantly their social and emotional development.
So, my question of, 'will you say no to dating?' is merely that, a question. Something to prompt reflection and spark curiosity, but as parents or someone working with young people, it is important for us to discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, boundaries, wanting-signs, to help look out for if things go wrong in a romantic relationships and how to act respectively towards partners.
If there is one thing that I have learnt in my role as Chaplain, is that, avoiding topics rather than talking about them, leads to secrecy, unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Regardless of whether or not you will allow your child to date, my encouragement today is to have discussions with them around healthy romantic relationships; this allows you to shape the cnoversation and provides a safe space where they can ask questions and learn from you.
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