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Teen relationships

The path to becoming an adult is an exciting and busy time for teenagers. It is full of new experiences and challenges as teenagers begin to find out who they are and become more independent.  It can also be quite a testing time for parents. Many will have to cope with the mood swings and arguments that come with raising a teenager.  Once you’ve got through to your teen, it’s well worth it. Until then, if you are having a tough time coping, that’s totally normal. Here you can find all the guidance and support you need to get through this tricky but rewarding period.

Teen relationships

Read time: 3 minutes

Remember that as they become more independent teenagers are exposed to more risks. Like alcohol or pressure from peers to act in ways that seem out of character. These risks can make them more vulnerable to other risks. Exploitation or violence, for example.

At the same time teenagers have lots of expectations on them - from home, from school and from their peers. We expect them to act like young adults, yet they are often treated like children. So if you're concerned your teen does have a problem or is in trouble, it's important that you seek help. Don't just wait for them to grow out of it - you could be leaving them vulnerable.

The good news is there is lots of help available. And there is lots of information here to support you.

You may never have guessed it, but your child's relationships had been joyfully simple. Until their teenage years! This is where things start to get a little bit tricky – unless you're one of the lucky ones!

Negative friendships and peer pressure

As your teenager grows older, they will form new relationships. Including friendships and romantic connections. Some of these relationships might not be exactly to your liking. You might find that your teenager is suddenly getting into trouble. Or taking part in risky behaviour.

This is also an age where peer pressure can come into play. It's usual for teenagers to change some habits to fit in with a new friendship group. But what if your teenager is being pressured into doing things they don't want to do? If your teenager seems tense or prone to angry outbursts, they may be affected by peer pressure.

It can be easy to blame your teenager's friends. Especially if your child has never acted like this before. But your job as a parent is to guide your teenager while respecting their independence. Just laying down the law without trying to understand them risks pushing them away. It can even make them less likely to speak to you than they already are!

Romantic relationships

Many people also begin to form romantic relationships in their teenage years. Some will face heartbreak. When you're grown up, it can be easy to overlook how much this means to a teenager.

But remember how strong teenage emotions can be. Also don't forget how little your teenager has dealt with these feelings. They may not want it, but your support could really help your teenager overcome a breakup.

Now for a topic that many parents dread the most – sex. Very few teenagers are open with their parents about their sex life. Especially if they are active before the age of 16.

You might have cause for concern if your teenager doesn't share much with you. They might be spending a lot of time alone in their room with their new boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they're staying out later than usual. Perhaps you have found condoms or contraception in their belongings.

There's nothing wrong with being worried that they are putting themselves at risk. Or with wanting to make sure they aren't being forced into anything. Bringing your worries to your teen in the right way is the tricky part!

Top tips for dealing with teenage relationships

Read time: 3 minutes

Whatever your teenager's relationship issue is, the answer is often found through talking. Here's how you can help your teenager deal with their relationships. While easing your own worries!

Speaking to your teenager about their friends

  • Talk with them, not 'at' them. Start a conversation. This will help you understand your teenager's relationships. It will also show them that you are worried rather than angry.
  • Be careful. If you feel the need to question your teenager, do so carefully. Question the behaviour of a friend, and not the friend themselves.
  • Be honest. Avoid sneaky moves such as checking your teenager's phone. If they find out, they will likely lose trust in you.

Helping your teenager cope with peer pressure

  • Encourage them to talk. Be understanding. If they are not happy speaking to you, encourage them to talk to someone else about how they feel. This could be a friend, a teacher, school counsellor or relative.
  • Make excuses. Help your teenager come up with some reasons why they can't do something that they don't want to do. This way they have a way out for the next time it happens.
  • Make a stand. Remind them that if their friends don't respect their choices, plenty of other people will.
  • Be there. Make sure they know you will support them and are always there if they need you.

Helping your teenager overcome heartbreak

  • Be open. Don't go over the top but remind your teen that you're there to talk if they want to. If they do, be ready to do most of the listening. Remember, this is about them.
  • Don't baby them. Be careful with what you say. Don't offer a solution or suggest they will forget all about their ex in a few months. This will make your teen feel you are talking to them as if they are a child.
  • Be positive. Help them see the bigger picture by gently telling them about all the good things in their life.

Talking to your teenager about sex

  • Stay calm. Let your teenager know you're happy to talk if they have any questions or worries about sex. If they do, focus on listening to their concerns before calmly discussing. Make sure it's a chat, not a lecture.
  • Be mindful. What your teenager has to say might make you feel uneasy or even upset, but don't show this. It could stop them from being honest with you in future.
  • Don't make it a one-off. Encourage them to come to you in future. They might need your support more than once. Talking about sex often also helps them realise that it isn't a taboo topic.

Can't get through to your teen? Talk to someone!

Being a parent to a teenager can be hard. Getting through to them can be even harder. If you are worried about your teenager's relationships and they are turning down your attempts to help, let somebody know.

Speak to your family or friends about your feelings. If you need them, don't forget that there are several support services and charities happy to help. Their experts are on hand to listen to your concerns, ease your fears, and offer practical guidance to help you help your teenager. And remember, always look after yourself!

Information from external websites

Action for Children offer top tips on spotting loneliness and how to help if your child is lonely.

Barnardo's Family Space shares a useful article on healthy relationships and resisting peer influence

Bish is a guide to sex, love and you for everyone over 14. Bish also has a handy parent guide that offers parents support in tackling issues raised on the website.

Childline has loads of information for your teen on friendships and on sex and relationships. They also have sections on sexual orientation, on gender identity and coming out.

Disrespect Nobody is a website for your teen to help them understand what healthy and respectful relationships look like.

Family Lives has 9 helpful articles for parents on teenage relationships and sex. It also has information on supporting your LGBT+ child and coming out.

The Mix has a section for your teen dedicated to support with relationships. And they have information on everything your teen wants to now about relationships and sex including gender and sexuality.

NSPCC has a page on gender identity that is highly informative. They also have advice on how to talk to your teen about sex and relationships. They also have a section on how to support a child coming out or questioning their sexuality and one on recognising unhealthy sexual behaviour and what to do if you're worried.

Relate has a useful set of 5 articles on teenage relationships and sex.

Surrey Family Information Service has a great page on support for young people who are LGBT+

Young Minds has a helpful article on how to support your child's self-esteem.

Safe Space Health UK is a website for young people aged 11 - 14 in Surrey. It offers helpful information about emotional health, lifestyle choices, relationships, keeping safe, growing up and being okay with being different.

Struggling and need to talk?

For you

Action for Children offer 1:1 chat with a parenting coach (Mon - Fri). If they are closed you can leave a message and a parenting coach will get back to you within 3 working days.

Family Lives have a free, confidential helpline, offering emotional support, information, advice and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life. Call the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 9pm and on weekends from 10am to 3pm).

The Surrey Children and Family Health Advice Line is available from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays). They can provide support on all aspects of child health, development and parenting for families with children from birth to 19 years old. Call the Surrey-wide 0-19 Advice Line on 01883 340 922

Young Minds has a free parents helpline. For detailed advice, emotional support and signposting about your teen call 0808 802 5544 (9:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday)

For your teen

Child and Family Health Surrey offer a text service called ChatHealth, a confidential school nurse messaging service for young people aged 11-19. Young people can contact their school nurse in confidence by text. The Chat Health text number is: 07507 329 951 (Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm). All of the issues discussed are confidential unless a child's safety, or that of others, is at risk. The school nurses will always encourage young people to discuss issues with their parents or guardians.

Childline have a free and confidential helpline for children. You could encourage your child to call 0800 1111 if they need to speak to someone - open 7 days a week from 7.30am - 3.30am. Childline also have a 1-2-1 counsellor chat for children who don't want to speak on the phone.

Mermaids has a free helpline to support transgender youth (Mon - Fri 9am - 9pm) Call 0808 801 0400.

The Mix has a free helpline for under 25s who need help but don't know where to turn. Your teen can call 0808 808 4994 (7 days a week from 3pm to 12am. You can also web chat 7 days a week from 3pm to 12am, however chats may not be connected after 11:15pm).

Useful videos on teenage relationships

Family Lives share this informative video on young love.

View on YouTube

Childline has helpful videos on understanding consent (video) on sex and relationships (video) and sex and contraception (video).

Family Lives has a number of informative videos, including is your teen in an abuse relationship? (video) You might want to watch my teen struggles to make friends (video) and talking about sex (video).

The Families Under Pressure video collection offers a great series of short top tips videos on managing behaviour and help with negative emotions. Perfect for when your family leave you feeling frazzled!

Helpful tools and apps

Childline has loads of tools to help your teen cope if they feel low or overwhelmed. They might want to try the coping kit, or the mood journal or even the calm zone. There's loads more resources in this helpful toolbox. Why not suggest they download the Childline For Me App.

Kooth is a free online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people aged 11 - 18. Accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop 365 days a year on Monday to Friday from 12pm–10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 6pm until 10pm.
Your teen can sign up here

You might want to suggest your teen tries the MeeTwo App. it is free, and allows peer to peer support for 11-25 year olds in a forum monitored by trained adults. If your 14 year old posts a question, only other 14 year olds will see the post and be able to respond. Adults monitor questions and answers and hand the question to a counsellor if they feel the child needs more than peer support.

Download Meetwo from Google Play

Download MeeTwo from App Store

The Mix have an Age of Consent Tool that will guide your teen through a series of questions designed to help them understand what they can and can't do with whoever they're planning on doing it with! The Mix also has a tool to help your teen understand if their relationship is a healthy one.

The Mix offers a Crisis Text Line for under 25s. Let your teen know if they can't cope and are worried about their feelings they can text THEMIX to 85258 for instant help. The service runs 24/7 and is free.

Surrey's Family Learning and Adult Learning teams have developed a family wellbeing resource, with lots of tips on looking after yourself and your family during these challenging times.

Online parenting guides

Surrey residents get free access to three online guides that include top tips from childcare, education and NHS health experts.

How to register

Registration is quick and easy. Go to the OurPlace website and use the access code 'ACORN' to get your free guides.

Access to the guides is unlimited with no expiry date, so you can return as and when you need and want to. Why not watch the Child and Family Health video to find out more.

Community support, courses and local help

Choose the area you live in for local services. Please note that due to coronavirus (Covid-19) very few community services are currently running.

BETA: We would really appreciate your feedback to help us improve and grow the service. We're listening!

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Date published: 22 Apr 2021