First relationships can be really positive for the couple involved. They can increase self esteem and confidence and widen your child’s friendship circle. Some may last a long while or they can be very short lived but they are a part of your child learning how to get along with others.
It is important that your child knows that they can talk to you about it. Adolescents are not always that keen on ‘a talk’ with their parent – but keep offering your time and showing you are interested in them. There are some good communication tips *here*.
Young relationships can be very intense. Encourage your child to enjoy time with their partner but not let all other friends and interests fall by the wayside.
- Have boundaries around days and times that a young couple spend together. Make sure that school work is still completed.
- Make sure that they know you understand they want time together and agree together when this will happen.
- Show you would like to get to know their girlfriend / boyfriend. They might be nervous about this – try and keep it low key and short to begin with. (Prove you aren’t too embarrassing!).
- Encourage them to spend time with other friends. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if they were ‘left out’ by one of their friends.
- Social media and mobile devices mean young people can talk at all hours. You may need to help your teen keep to a screen time curfew so that they get enough rest and time to themselves.
Having confidence and self esteem will make your child more able to value their own self worth and be able to treat others well. *Click here* to look at our pages on helping your child with this.
If your child has had healthy relationship role models as they have grown up they are more likely to find it easier to make healthy relationships themselves. Talking to them about relationships you have had can be useful – the good and the bad.
Some young relationships are not healthy and have signs of abuse. There are different types of abuse in relationships. It is not always as easy to spot as you might think. Especially in the early days of a relationship. Look *here* for more information on types of abuse.
It can be easy to misunderstand a partner being possessive, angry and even violent as a sign they ‘really care’. Your child may need help to see any signs of abuse in their relationship. Try not to directly criticise their girlfriend or boyfriend – this will probably make them defensive Talk about TV characters relationships things you read or hear about to help the conversation not feel so personal. Ask questions start conversations and make them think;
- Is it okay when boyfriends/girlfriends try to stop you seeing your friends and family?
- Is it okay for a boyfriend/girlfriend to expect you to change your plans to fit in with them?
- Should a boyfriend / girlfriend criticise the way you look and tell you what to wear?
- Should someone be pressured to do something sexually they are not comfortable with?
Abuse in young relationships is worryingly common. Research in 2015 showed;
- 6% of boys and 12.6% of girls aged 16 to 19 had experienced domestic abuse in the past year.
- 31% of girls and 6% of boys said they had been sexually abused in a relationship.
So the risk of this needs to be taken seriously and parents and young people need to be alert to the signs.
There is a good quiz *here* that can help you and your child have a conversation about the good and bad things in relationships.
You may have been in an abusive relationship yourself. Talking about how you left this is something to be proud of and shows you as a positive role model.
If you are still in an abusive relationship it is never too late to get help. This will be good for the health and wellbeing of you and your child. It will set a good example to your children. Find out about help in Norfolk *here*.
If you feel concerned about the relationship your child is in - their safety and wellbeing is the priority. If you are worried that your child is in an abusive relationship it is important to act. You can speak to school for advice. Call Just One Number to talk to a health professional and discuss your options.
If you think they are in immediate danger call 999.
Early relationships with peers of similar ages are not always sexual. If there is an age gap of more than a year or two you may need to be curious about why an older, young person would want to be with them. With bigger age gaps there is likely to be a difference in maturity, and expectations, of the relationship. It can mean that the power and control in the relationship sits with the older partner. It is important to be alert to this.
Whilst often first relationships do not involve sex, it is very important that your child understands contraception, sexual health how to keep them self safe.
Childline have great information on this for you and your child *here* these are important conversations to have with your sons and your daughters. Being able to talk about this is part of showing they are mature enough for a sexual relationship. It is part of showing respect for themselves and the other person.
Ideally it is great if you feel able to talk to your child about this. If you don’t think you can or you do not think your child will be able to talk to you about this it is important that you find someone else they can talk to;
- It could be a family member or friend.
- You could speak to school and ask for a member of staff your child trusts to spend time with them.
- You can give them information from websites and books (check back that they have looked at them!).
- You could help them make an appointment at an iCaSH (contraceptive and sexual health clinic). Find your local clinic *here*.
However embarrassed you and / or your child are It is really important that you do not leave the conversation to chance, Your child needs to know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and / or unplanned pregnancy.
Young people can be particularly prone to being persuaded to do things they would rather not do. They can be impulsive and not think through their actions. *Click here* to take a look at our page on the teenage brain.
Understanding consent is really important for boys and for girls. They need to know that they get to say what does and does not happen to their bodies. They must respect this for others too.
No always means no – even if you previously said yes. You can always change your mind.
The video below explains consent; you could watch it together.
Although some young romantic relationships can last a long time, often they come to an end. This can be really hard for a young person to cope with.
They will need to grieve for the loss of something that was special to them. It is important that parents recognise how important the relationship was to them and how painful the end of a relationship might be.
It is hard to watch your child feel hurt and upset. Don’t feel you have to ‘fix it’. Being there and reassuring them that they will be fine will help.
- Let them know you are available to listen.
- Ask them what they think will help. Sometimes they might want to talk about it, at others need time alone.
- Avoid criticising their ‘ex’ – there is always a chance they will get back together! Remind them to avoid reacting in an angry way to the other person and saying or doing things they might regret. Get them to steer clear of social media!
- Encourage them to distract themselves with friends, films and getting out and about.
Although this is a painful experience your child will learn that they can survive. It is an important lesson. They will know they have a support network to rely on. They are learning resilience that will help them though tough times. *Click here* to look at our page on building resilience.
If you are worried that your child is badly affected for longer than you would have expected, with symptoms of low mood get advice. Call your GP or Just One Number to talk to a health professional for support.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support.
Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.
Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.