Should you worry when your teen starts dating?

Is your teen dating? As a parent that’s been one of my most confusing stages – how do you give your teenager privacy when they start dating, but still keep them safe? If you’ve ever wondered if your child’s choice of partner might be unhealthy, this episode of the Teenage Kicks podcast is for you.

Dating red flags to teach your teenager

Liz Merrill is a relationship and mediation expert who specialises in helping people who are in narcissistic and abusive relationships. Liz recently set up a campaign to highlight to young people the red flags they should be aware of if something doesn’t feel quite right in their relationship, something which I think we would rather our teens learn sooner rather than later.

In this podcast episode Helen finds out from Liz what dating red flags we should be looking for as parents, and how to discuss these with our children. Liz says that as a parent the most helpful thing we can do is teach our children what a healthy relationship looks like so that they know a red flag when they see one. Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Relationship red flags for teenagers

How young does narcissism start?

Liz says that people with traits of narcissism come to that through the relationship behaviour they’ve seen in their parents. This can shape their personality as they develop and lead to some controlling behaviour even as young as the teenage years. She thinks parents – whilst not getting too involved in their children’s romantic relationships – should stay aware of the conversations that are happening. Where she gets nervous, she tells me, is when she realises her children aren’t telling her anything about what’s going on for them with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

What relationship red flags do parents need to know?

Liz highlights some of the key things you might notice as a parent of a teenager who is dating the wrong person:

  • Excessive jealousy – if your teenager’s love interest seems to be envious of the time they spend with their family or friends this is something to pay attention to. This can be a sign of a controlling relationship with someone who doesn’t respect boundaries. The knock-on effects of this could be deep and long-lasting.
  • Checking phones – if your teen’s partner is constantly asking to have visibility of their texts and social media this is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.
  • Sexual pressure – if your teen is feeling pressured to have sex or go further physically than they’re ready for, this is a red flag you should talk to them about.
  • False accusations – this stems from people who view their feelings as facts. They may project those feelings of insecurity onto their partner and start creating ‘truths’ about your child that they may begin to question themselves. This is called gaslighting.

How to talk to your teen about dating red flags

Teen dating red flags
Stylish young couple teenagers in love, summer sunny day

Liz is a breath of fresh air because she says she’s definitely got it wrong in the past. It’s so easy as a parent to get too involved, assume too much, and be an unwelcome intrusion as our children learn to live their own lives independently of their parents. She says she’s fallen foul of this too, which makes her an even more credible person to talk to about this. She says the best thing we can do is try to keep an open dialogue, be honest about our feelings and vulnerabilities, and explain to our kids why we’re getting in the middle of something they’d rather we weren’t. It makes it more likely that they will tell us honestly when they need us to back off, and come to us when they’re out of their depth.

She says that once you put your teen in a place of defense you’ve lost all influence. Instead, we need to ask questions from a place of empathy, probing gently to see how they feel about the situation they’re in. Then just give it time for things to dawn on them in the right way.

I asked Liz what we can do as parents when we can clearly see that the relationship they’re in is very unhealthy. She maintains that not shaming them is the best approach. Not something we – as parents – will find easy, given our overriding instinct to protect our children, but she says that picking a fight is never going to result in a harmonious outcome.

Are narcissists bad people?

This is a difficult one. People with narcissistic tendencies learned them somewhere, whether it be from modelling via their parents or from certain attachment issues they had as children. But whilst it may not be their fault, it is something they need to work on, and Liz says it’s not for our child to be the person who fixes that problematic outlook for someone else.

Listen to the podcast

You can find more from Liz on Instagram, and on her website Openspace Mediation.

Subscribe to the Teenage Kicks podcast

Thank you so much for listening! I really appreciate every listener, and would love you to subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to explore previous episodes that might be of interest to you or a friend – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for future topics on the Teenage Kicks podcast. Just email me on teenagekicks@gmail.com, or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamhelenwills. I appreciate every message, and love to hear from my listeners.

For information on your data privacy please visit Podcast.co. Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in this blog or in the podcast should be taken as medical advice. If you’re worried about a young person please seek support from a medical professional.

Join me in the Teenage Kicks Facebook group!

If you’re a parent of teens it can be difficult to know where to go for advice, to vent, or just to talk. So I’ve made the Teenage Kicks Facebook group, for all parents of teenagers to chat in a safe space. You can request to join by clicking the button below. It’s a private group and everyone in there will be a parent of teenagers.

And if you’re stuck for how to engage with your teenager, this list of things for teens to do might be helpful.

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