Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How To Talk To Your Teen About Relationships

Heather Mikkelsen

As contemporary parents of teens, we are pretty progressive. We have used anatomically correct terms for body parts since our children can remember. We’ve banished “The Sex Talk” from our collective vocabulary, understanding that it is a conversation that is ongoing. But there is one area we may overlook in our zest to pass on our understanding of hard science. We need to talk to our teens about relationships.

When we talk to our teens about abstinence and delaying sex, we make marriage the end goal. However, we know that marriage does not necessarily create a healthy relationship, but a successful marriage cannot exist without one. So, what does a good relationship look like?

You may feel as if you are teetering on the brink of “do as I say and not as I do” when the conversation about relationships begins with your teenager. Don’t be afraid to admit your own struggles. Demonstrate kindness with yourself as it will heal you and model this behavior for your children. Keep talking even if it seems they aren’t listening. By doing that, you are creating a space for future conversations and letting them know that this is not an area you are afraid to explore with them.

Below, find excerpts from my book Be Smart that I hope will give you some ideas for ways to begin a dialogue with your teens about relationships.

When your teen comes to you to talk about a friend, a break-up, or any struggle, comfort her as you would a friend, listening and reassuring, being present while she finds her own answers. I tell myself to listen with heart. To me, this means listening with compassion, but respecting the other person’s need to experience this. The widening of one’s frame of reference can be painful. Just be there for your child.

Teach your teen that the most important relationship he or she will ever have is that with oneself. Joseph Campbell said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." It takes practice to do this, because it is much more common and acceptable to be self-critical than respectful and loving. Teach your teen to treat the self lovingly and with respect, and they will never settle for anything less in future relationships.

Every relationship is a tapestry of experiences, history, and feelings. Some of the most important ingredients of a quality relationship are mutual trust, respect, dialogue, desires, honesty, and faithfulness. Without these the relationship will run out of steam. Teach your teen to be observant of the self and the other person, learn, and then use this new knowledge to improve every relationship.

What readers are saying about Heather's book, Be Smart (Your Nurse Practitioner's Guide to Sexual Health and Well-being):

"This book is perfect! I'm a college freshman and I plan on taking it with me for a reference for my friends and I for any questions that we encounter! Finally someone knows what they are talking about and put it in a non-embarrassing manner! Thanks Heather! You're the best!" ~ Elizabeth Harkey

"Be Smart is a well written and informative book for all young adults. It is the book you wish every teenager could read before becoming sexually active. Heather Mikkelsen has provided parents with the perfect handbook to give to our children which fills the gaps in the information they are receiving from both home and school. Cheers!" ~ Patricia A. Cook

"As a nurse, I have worked to educate adolescents and adults about sexual health and well-being, often struggling to explain health practices and processes in a way my patients can understand. I believe this book has a great deal to offer readers from puberty and onward; clearly answering the sexual health questions many of us either don't know how to discuss or don't give needed attention. This book gives understandable, to-the-point info in a non-judgmental way which I believe is absolutely necessary in reaching teenagers (and many adults). Highly recommend!" ~ Pazoo Xiong
Heather Mikkelsen has been a Family Nurse Practitioner for ten years. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her graduate degrees from San Diego State University and University of California San Diego. She currently works in a setting where she sees primarily adolescent patients. It was their honesty and questions that lead to the writing of her book Be Smart (Your Nurse Practitioner’s Guide to Sexual Health and Well-being).

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