Valentine’s Day is coming up, and it has many teens feeling lots of different emotions. The prospect of having a secret valentine could either be exciting or nerve-wracking. Some teens may be feeling lonely because of the holiday. Some teens might feel annoyed, refusing to participate in the “Hallmark-created holiday.” Others may be excited about the prospect of a new relationship. Whatever you’re feeling, it is important to keep yourself safe while dating. Here are some things to think about before agreeing to go on a date.
I’m sure you have heard that communication is key in relationships. Well, it’s true! Don’t try to guess what the other person is thinking. If you are unsure, just ask. Say something like, “I feel … When you said/did … Is that what you meant?” Try to stay away from accusatory statements that blame the other person. Instead, ask for clarification and express how you feel.
Reach an understanding with your parents. Have a conversation about their expectations for you when you are dating. Decide on a curfew and establish supervision expectations. Try to keep an honest dialogue with your parents; this usually calms their nerves, and helps them to trust you more. Remember when I told you not to guess what the other person is thinking? The same thing applies to your parents. If you don’t talk to them, they have to fill in the blanks with their imagination.
Meeting people online is pretty much the norm these days. It’s important to be smart about it. Make sure you are behaving online just as you would in public. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it’s probably not something you should say online. If you do end up meeting someone online and you want to take it IRL, do it with parental permission, in a public place, and with a group of people.
Trust your instincts:
We all have instincts, and TBH most people have pretty good instincts. So if you get a weird vibe or just feel off, it’s okay to end the date early. Say, “Thanks for meeting with me, but I have to go now.” You are in no way obligated to continue a date or conversation.
Consent is a non-negotiable:
Consent is a clear “yes” from everyone involved. This means respecting each other's boundaries and feelings about what is happening. If you don’t want to kiss your date, then don’t. It’s okay to say no. And a respectful partner will be okay with your “no” and wait until they get a clear “yes.”
Recognize red flags:
“Red flags” are a term to describe a person’s unhealthy relationship patterns. Some red flags could be lack of communication, controlling behavior, ignoring your boundaries, excessive jealousy, being possessive, being unsupportive, or having constant conflict. If these things are happening in your relationship, consider if it’s healthy for you to continue it.
Dating and navigating healthy relationships is hard. Hopefully these quick tips will start you on the right path. If you have more questions, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted adult about it. If you are interested in working with a counselor, talk to your parents about reaching out for help. Send your parents this link and we will talk about next steps together!