This is where the parent network can really come in handy.Parents should tune into the grapevine: Your teen may not be talking, but usually one of them is.It's all about mutual interests: Parents need information, and the teens need freedom. If parents have information about their teen experiencing relationship violence (e.g., pushing, hitting, slapping or what is called "relational aggression," like threats and humiliation), they should take firm action to end therelationship. Parents should offer empathy and compassion, and go light on the words of wisdom in an effort to make the teen less miserable.RELATED: Living with a mood swingin' tween To get any personal info on your teen's dating, it's usually helpful to have some "grapevine" info to start with, like, "I heard that you and Sarah were going out … I'd rather hear the real scoop from you than have to rely on gossip." But don't expect a big download. Just because another mom has a Chatty Cathy, that doesn't mean your Clam-up Kid is "less close" to you. Younger teens usually pursue their romantic interests via texts and third parties who scout out whether the other party is interested.All we can do is try to strike up conversations that may give us some clues over time. Younger teens may "go out" (meaning: explore the idea of being a "couple") and break up and never even have a face-to-face conversation.Shy kids often postpone dating because of their anxiety and avoidance, and the bold risk-takers will be the trail blazers. If the teen blows it on following through, she or he has restricted freedom.How can parents balance their need for information with their child'sdesire forprivacy and independence? RELATED: How to keep your kids safe around alcohol What should parents do if they suspect their child is in an abusive relationship?What hasn't changed over the decades is that sexual and romantic interests start at or before puberty.
Before you hit the panic button, heed the advice of clinical psychologist Dr.
Laura Kastner, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, and author of Getting to Calm: Cool-headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens. What are the best strategies for opening up a dialogue about dating? Start on the outside of the topic of socializing, and hunt and peck.
Who's in the group going to X's house Friday night? To keep it from being an interrogation—leading to shut down—it's good to just make it chit-chat in an effort to get the teen interested in a few topics so that they enjoy sharing.
By accident, you may hear some names that crop up more and more.
If we stay respectful and keep sniffing around the perimeter of their social worlds, we'll usually learn something of their romantic world. Teens, especially those in high school and college, may refer to "hooking up," and that term can include anything from kissing at a party to sexual intercourse. Teens deny that any coupling up is occurring so that teens can maximize their independence.
Parents allow more freedom when they don't think dating or sexual interests are part of the mix.