Whether we like it or not, most teenagers have a desire to date. And regardless of if you choose to allow it, encourage it, or prohibit it, dating will happen at some point and there are some conversations that we should be having with our teenage daughters sooner rather than later. While this list is not all-inclusive, it’s a good place to start:
The high cost of settling
When all of her girlfriends are gabbing about having boyfriends, it might be tempting for teen girls to settle for any relationship merely for the sake of being in a relationship. While high school relationships are often short-lived, being linked to the wrong partner, at any point in life, can come with an expensive price tag.
What it means to consent
Peer pressure is a powerful force and under the right circumstances, even the most grounded teen can fall victim to it. Be sure to remind her that she always has the right to say no. Even if she’s at his (or her’s) house. Even if she’s undressed. Even if she’s had sex with that person in the past. Even if they’re already having sex. She is allowed to change her mind. Period.
What to do if you lose yourself
Let her know that even grown women can lose themselves in a relationship, but the fact that you can identify that you’ve lost yourself means that you can always find your way back. Spending meaningful time alone and getting reacquainted with the things and people you love will never fail you when it comes to getting back on track.
Relationships don’t determine your worth
It can feel pretty terrible when you’re the only one in your friend group who doesn’t have a boyfriend (or girlfriend). Allow her to share her true feelings, but without invalidating, reinforce the mindset that relationship status is not what determines a woman’s value. Encourage and assist her in pursuing her personal goals and interests, which can also offer feelings of fulfillment.
Recognizing predatory men and women
Most teenagers are going to date — whether their parents allow it or not. So instead of constantly talking about what you won’t allow, don’t forget to put your daughter up on game because it’s a scary world out there and there are people who will specifically target teenage girls because they are more easily manipulated. Explain to your daughter what a predator looks like and some of the approaches they may use. Call it out and make it plain.
Identifying emotional and physical abuse
Physical abuse doesn’t have to result in black eyes and broken limbs and emotional abuse doesn’t always manifest as cussing, berating, and name calling. Some of the most heinous of abusers are much more discreet. Help her to recognize the subtle and blatant signs so that she can identify them if she sees them.
Emotional unavailability can’t be cured
As Black women, so many of us are programmed to think that it’s our job to fix and heal broken men. Reinforce the fact that this is not her responsibility and while you’re at it, let her know that emotional unavailability cannot be fixed externally.
The value of spending time alone
Over the years, some of us have developed a fear of being alone. Encourage her to spend time alone and remind her of the value of one learning to enjoy their own company.
Your issue is rarely with the other woman
Teenage relationships are filled with all sorts of drama — including cheating. While there are definitely some instances in which the “other woman” is living foul, your primary issue should always be with the person with whom you’re in a relationship.
Any missteps you’ve made
We love to play perfect in front of our kids, but our daughters can learn a lot from our stories — especially the ones we’re ashamed of. Tell her about your experiences and lessons learned so that she doesn’t have to learn them the hard way.