Rachel is a 16-year-old born and raised in NYC. She enjoys singing, debating, traveling and writing. Her favorite subjects are English and Science; she wishes to pursue a career in either of them in the future.
From long distance to too much PDA, the fear of breaking up to flings, teens can be really confusing when it comes to why they date, who they date, and most importantly HOW they date. I will narrow it down to the most common relationships and explain the Who, the How and the Why so you can know the What you can do. Some of these types are similar but there are subtle differences.
1. Friend with Benefits
Who: Most likely your teen’s close friend or an ex.
How: The two teens in question are “just friends” (duh) but might be doing a little bit more than what friends would do, such as kissing. It is quite similar to “secret” dating and casual dating (only they won’t consider themselves as ‘actually dating’).
Why: This is the awkward phase where you think you like your friend but they’re still just that… (your friend, that is). Or your feelings for your ex still haven’t gone away.
What we think: If your teen is in this type of relationship, they’re probably either confused, or really hope that no one else finds out. So if you find out your teen is in one, it’s probably not best to confront him/her unless it gets out of hand.
2. The “Tech” Relationship
Who: Someone your teen recently met.
How: Their whole relationships consists of IM-ing and texting each other. It’s difficult for them to talk in person with each other but they talk nonstop when messaging.
Why: Technology gives teens a certain degree of confidence, so when you are face to face with someone, it feels awkward without that boost of confidence.
What we think: This form of “dating” is really instable. Since the only form of communication between the two teens, when they actually go on a ‘real’ date, there will be many, and I say MANY awkward silences. Respectfully yet casually mention to your teen that you don’t think this kind of relationship is healthy. However, please try not to confuse a “tech” relationship with a regular relationship that texts each other a lot. In a regular relationship, though they text and instant message each other a lot, they still would rather talk to each other in person or call.
3. The “Secret” Relationship
Who: A mystery person or a boyfriend/girlfriend under the façade of “just friends”.
How: Your teen sneaks around to hang out with his/her significant other. Most of the time, not even the best friends know.
Why: Your teen might be embarrassed or scared of how people would react if they found out he/she is dating that certain someone. A different scenario is that they’ve been friends for so long that they don’t want their other close friends to find out and cause things to be awkward.
What we think: If you found out by accident or on purpose, this relationship isn’t harmful unless you find something you don’t like about the guy (too old, has a past, etc.)
4. Seasonal Fling
Who: A person your teen just met, maybe while on vacation or through friends.
How: Your teen only wants to date that person for ‘until the spring break ends’ or ‘until he has to leave for college’.
Why: Most teens just want company during a boring or occasionally scary transition in their life. If it’s just during a vacation, they want excitement during it. If it’s right before moving away or going to school, it’s most likely because they want someone that they know they could depend on during this transition, even if it is only for a short period of time.
What we think: As long as they mutually decided beforehand that it’s only a fling and nothing really serious, then you shouldn’t worry about it too much. Sometimes teens just like the companionship that comes with dating. However, if the other teen does NOT know that the relationship is meant to be only for a short period, you might want to talk to your teen. Explain that if the two of them weren’t on the same page, it would be the same as lying to the significant other, inevitably causing one of them to be hurt. Make sure that he understands that you don’t mind him having a fling, but not at the expense of someone else’s feelings.
5. “Wedding” Relationships
Who: A person who your teen has been dating for a while (as a teen, anything more than 8 months could be considered as ‘a while’)
How: The two are joined at the hip, only going to certain outings with friends if the ‘other’ is there.
Why: They want to be completely focused on their boyfriend/girlfriend, which may lead them to exclude their other friends, single and dating alike.
What we think: It’s not really healthy to have your life completely revolving around ONE person, especially if the relationship started not too ‘long’ ago. These relationships can cause your teen the most heartache if or when it breaks up. Explain to your teen casually that you think he doesn’t have to do everything with JUST his girlfriend and that you miss seeing ___________ (insert best buddy’s friend here) around, though you like ____________(insert special other’s name here) very much. This may not immediately change the situation, but at least, your teen would be thinking about it, which may influence this situation later on.
6. Open Relationship
Who: A person your teen may or may not have been dating on again off again.
How: They would say that they’re dating each other, but they’re okay if the other dates someone else on the side.
Why: Some teens are afraid of commitment or really just don’t want to be “stuck” with someone else. They might use the buffet analogy (how they want to sample a little of everything before ‘sitting down’ with one plate)
What we think: Just for the record, parents? Not ALL teens are like this. Some of my friends are completely devoted to the one and only ‘other’. However, I do regret to say that not ALL teens are like that. They may be emotionally immature or (dare I say it?) indecisive. If your teen is in an open relationship and you’re not okay with it, say something! This type of relationship is hard to point out (by the parent) without your child getting defensive. Just remember to keep an ear open; it helps a lot during these types of conversations.