by Kaleena Anderson, family life educator, Utah State University Extension
IKR, BRB, LOL, IDK. Ever feel lost in a digital world with new lingo, new rules and no instruction manual? Ever heard the old adage “the only constant is change?” Well, there is good news if you are a parent raising a teen in the digital world. While there are different practices in how your teen engages in relationships, compared to the dating scene you remember, there are a few things that will always remain.
The Three T’s of healthy relationships help us remember three ways we can create a healthy dating relationship.
Talk: Chances are your teen knows how to talk (at least with his or her friends, right?). Whether it’s in the middle of class, in the middle of the night, on the phone, on Facebook or Instagram, teens know how to keep in touch. But what are they talking about in their dating relationships? Are they talking about music, movies and clothes: things that will change in the next few years? Or are they talking about things that really matter and will impact the type of person they will become in their adult life; things like family life, their value system, and where they would like to be 20 years from now?
Time: Here’s where we start to see even more problems. Think about the last romantic scene you saw in a movie or TV show. Think about the time lapse between when the leading couple met to the first time they engaged in intimate touch. Chances are, there was not much time in between. Our teens are being bombarded with depictions of accelerated relationships where not only is it normal to be physically involved with someone you just met, but it heightens the romance. However, here’s a different time-frame: The 90-Day Probation Period.
“About half of all dating attraction is significantly altered by some newly found characteristic within a three-month period; significant enough to cause a breakup of half of all dating relationships,” according to “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette” by Dr. Jon VanEpp.
In other words, rather than throwing yourself into a highly committed, sexual-charged relationship, take the first 90 days to really get to know a person, spend time with them, see if you’re compatible, and then decide if it’s a relationship worth keeping.
Togetherness: This is the area where the digital age fails us most. The only way to truly get to know someone is to see them in action in many different situations. How does this person react when their sibling is annoying them? Do they treat the server at the restaurant, or the cashier at the grocery store respectfully? What about when things don’t go as planned? Until you have seen how someone reacts in rush hour traffic or when their Internet connection is slow, you don’t really know them.
For parents raising teens in this complex world, this is my word of hope: As much as things change, there are certain constants when it comes to relationships. Although they may not see it this way, you really can help your children navigate the ever-changing course.
Utah State University Extension offers free community-based healthy relationship classes for parents, couples and single adults (18 years and older). Healthy relationship presentations are available in high schools throughout the state. For more information, visit www.healthyrelationshipsutah.org.