It is important to talk to your child about healthy physical and emotional boundaries with friends of the same sex and opposite sex at this stage. Teaching them to build good and respectful friendships with both boys and girls lends itself to a firmer foundation for a healthy dating relationship in the future.
Share with them also your family’s values and expectations on when it is an appropriate age to start dating.
Your teenager may be becoming more curious about the opposite sex by this time. Again, revisit your conversations with them about how to draw healthy physical and emotional boundaries with people of the same sex and opposite sex.
It would be good to broach the topic of physical intimacy in a dating relationship at this time. Ask them what they think are healthy physical boundaries between a boyfriend and girlfriend. Talk more with them about what led them to their conclusions.
Take this opportunity to calibrate their understanding of appropriate physical boundaries according to your family’s values. Help them to understand that acts of physical closeness—like holding hands, hugging, or kissing—all have an impact on the two people involved because they release chemicals in the brain that leads to emotional bonding. As such, these acts should not be done without serious consideration.
With specific reference to kissing, you can ask them questions like, “When two people decide to kiss each other, what do you think it means?”, “What’s the difference between kissing on the cheek, kissing on the lips, and kissing with the tongue? Do each of them have the same or different impact on the people involved?”
Help them to understand that some acts of physical intimacy can lead to something further.
Build on your prior conversations on healthy boundaries topic by exploring more specific topics like dressing appropriately, sexting, respectful and consensual physical touch, etc.
Explain in more detail about the stages of physical intimacy and the effects they can have on a dating relationship.
The first stage is usually hugging and hand holding. The next stage is kissing on the cheek (such as a goodnight kiss). To go further would be prolonged kissing (which includes French kissing), which can be the beginning of sexual arousal. If the couple proceeds to necking, this is when the guy would tend to start to get sexually aroused, if he has not already been aroused with prolonged kissing. With petting, the girl would start to feel sexually aroused. The next stage is heavy petting, followed by mutual sex play, which can easily lead to sexual intercourse.
Help your teenager to understand that hugging, hand holding, and a simple kiss on the cheek are the more appropriate kind of physical intimacy for a dating relationship. Anything beyond that can lead to sexual arousal, and that may cause them to move beyond the boundaries that are healthy for the couple into sexual activity.
Share with them why sexual activity in a dating relationship is not beneficial to the relationship nor their future marriage (whether they marry each other or someone else). Explain to them that marriage is the safest and most secure place for a man and a woman committed to each other to enjoy sexual intimacy with each other. In fact, studies show that premarital sexual activity may decrease marital happiness. In order to protect the goodness of sex, healthy physical boundaries are important in a dating relationship.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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