"He totally sub-tweeted my tweet on Twitter. How passive-aggressive is that? I'm definitely going to block him and change my relationship status just to make him jealous."
Ten years ago, that sentence would have made absolutely no sense. With the rise of social media, not only has our daily vocabulary changed, but a lot has changed in how we act and interact with the world around us. From a parent's perspective, the world of teenage love and romance has evolved from being complicated to seemingly impossible to manage and monitor with all these new social connections.
With so much change in such a short period of time, a huge gap has developed between how relationships were handled in the past to how they are approached today. Many parents feel overwhelmed and uninformed, unsure of how to really reach their teenagers, much less help them manage the world of love, sex, and relationships. As a professional counselor, I have worked with a number of parents and their teens, and have found that having an impact in your teenager's life comes down to five important things:
1. Model healthy relationships.
Interestingly enough, the most effective way to influence your teenager when it comes to shaping his perspective on love and dating has very little to do with your interactions with him. So much of what we gather and incorporate into our lives about relationships are the things modeled to us during our childhood and teenage years. Teenagers who witness healthy relationships tend to seek out healthy relationships in their own lives. Girls who see their fathers loving and serving their mothers will look for those qualities in the boys they choose to date. Boys who experience the affection and respect from their mom to their dad will be drawn to girls with those same characteristics. Teaching communication, affection, love, trust, and appreciation begin with your relationship with your spouse.
For parents who have had the unfortunate loss of a marriage by way of death or divorce, don't give up on this important step. Modeling healthy relationships isn't limited to a spouse, but it can be applied to every important relationship, including siblings, parents, friends, and coworkers. Every relationship interaction is a chance to model health and wholeness. Your teenager is watching how you operate, and your actions will always speak louder than your words. Take these teachable moments seriously and be the best example of how God intended relationships to be.