Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. Adolescents will eventually develop friendships as well as family, casual and intimate relationships. Some of these relationships will be healthy and some will not. Parents have to face the overwhelming task of guiding their teens in the right direction.
Parents, along with other members of society, can encourage, model, and provide a rich array of relationships for their teens. According to Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation, “teens need to learn how to make conscious choices about relationships, understand what they expect from other people, and have open communication with partners about intimate issues.” Basically, they must understand the healthy and unhealthy parts of any relationship.
Friendships between people should be regarded with affection, trust, and respect. An adolescent’s personality is often instrumental in determining what types of social interactions are desired. It does not really matter whether an adolescent has one friend or many as long as the relationship(s) are well balanced and healthy. In order to keep healthy friendships, teens should be supportive, considerate, and encouraging. They need to know how to cooperate and compromise even when they don’t see eye to eye with others. True friends should be able to talk openly about disagreements and apologize without belittling or teasing.
Healthy familial relationships consist of individuals who communicate well with each other, find ways to value boundaries and limits as well as build trust and respect among one another. Most adolescents learn the basics about loving and caring from their families – from immediate to extended members. Though it is common for the dynamics of a family to sometimes be turbulent, it is this core unit that increases the ability of teens to begin identifying with strong, positive relationships.
Casual relationships are easy to maintain. They are formed with people who are encountered on a day-to-day basis. These people include anyone who is not a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner. All relationships begin as casual relationships, and they can occur on both a professional level such as with teachers, clergy, and medical professionals or more simply as acquaintances. These interactions can help adolescents learn to have more balanced relationships as they begin to develop intimate relationships.
As adolescents grow and mature, new kinds of relationships will most likely begin to blossom. In healthy intimate relationships, both partners respect each other and continue to have their own identities, beliefs and values. These relationships include an emotional component and connection with another person. Intimate relationships can be with anyone who adolescents are really close to and with whom they can be completely open and honest. They do not have to be physical in nature.
However, it is important for adolescents to set clear boundaries, such as if, when and in what context they want to become physically intimate in a romantic relationship. An important part of respecting one’s self as well as other people is by understanding and honoring these boundaries. It is also important for teens to continue maintaining other friendships, and not become completely immersed in a romantic or intimate relationship.
Remember that relationships play a major part in the lives of adolescents. Parents need to talk openly about all types of relationships that their kids encounter. Keeping a healthy, open line of communication is a key part of guiding adolescents through the often confusing and chaotic world of relationships.
Life skills: preparing adolescents for adulthood is part of a 10-week series that will run in the Caloosa Belle.