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An Oncologist Offers Dating Advice

How do you know if a couple is right for each other?

Watch how they interact in a cancer clinic.

So says this oncologist in a poignant column from the Boston Globe. As Robin Schoenthaler writes, “When you’re a single woman picturing the guy of your dreams, what matters a heck of lot more than how he handles a kayak is how he handles things when you’re sick. And one shining example of this is how a guy deals with your purse.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Teen Dating Does Not Mean They’re Having Sex

Just a friendly reminder to parents that dating does not equal sex. I cannot tell you how many teens have shared with me that the first lecture they got from their parents when they started dating was about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and unwanted pregnancy. Their reactions were “what?”

When young teens start dating it is because they have found themselves twitterpated (which is apparently not a real word), and attracted to someone. Chances are good it is more of an emotional attraction than a sexual one, and one that will wax and wane, usually end with tears, but not kill them.

It is easy to understand why parents panic and worry about sexuality and the risks associated with that sexuality – we live in an extremely over-sexualized culture that can make us believe that everyone is having sex – which is not true. Please remember that only half of teens start being sexual before they are 18, but most fall in love at least once before leaving high school.

Dating is about learning how to be in a relationship, and you will be doing your children a great service if you talk with them about relationships, not sex. It is a good idea to make the difference really clear for them, and make your expectations very clear, too! If you expect your teen to not become sexual, tell them that, and why. Ask them to tell you what there limits and expectations about relationships and sex are. Here are some topic suggestions:

  • What do they think dating includes?
  • What does sexual pressure look and feel like?
  • How would your child resist sexual pressure?
  • How long do they think people should date before the topic of sex even comes up?
  • How will they know if someone is the “one?”
  • What would have to happen before they did think about sexual behavior?

If the possibility exists that they will be sexual, then, you can have the conversation about sex – but not if they tell you they will not be swayed and are not interested – you have to trust them.

Many teens are afraid of dating or choose not to date because a partner may expect sex, so they find a friend or pseudo partner to attend events with and protect them from having to resist sexual pressure – which is a great strategy, but keeps them from trying on relationships.

Oh the conversations that we might have … keep talking and make sure they know you are open to talking – even about things that make you squirm.

This post, Teen Dating Does Not Mean They’re Having Sex, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

When Your Teen Starts Dating

After you get over the urge to run and hide, lock your teen in the bathroom, shave his or her head, and save yourself, take a deep breath and think about what is important here. You are likely panicked because you know that sooner or later someone will break your teens heart – and there is nothing you can do about it, or is there?

Talk to your teen and share what you are feeling as well as what you know. Being new to the world of love/lust/hormones, there are some really great conversations to be had now about balance, friendship, and healthy relationships! First, your teen may be overwhelmed with how wonderful it feels to be in love and you can help remind your teen about balance, and the importance of not losing themselves for love. Your teen needs to stay “true to self” instead of becoming an appendage to the new love. Encourage your teen to stay connected to friends, school, outside activities, family, and sports, while making room for the new love.

You might mention that if that becomes an issue, you can help by setting limits on the amount of hanging out at home, phone, text, and computer time, to help her learn to balance life and love/lust/hormones. This is not a threat – just a supportive way to help your teen transition in the world of love!

Together you can set the expectations that honor this new part of life, make your teen feel listened to and involved with the new contract – the new couple spends time with the family, grades stay up, activities continue, chores, whatever else her life includes must all continue – because your teen has to be a “person” first before a girlfriend or boyfriend. The We’re Talking web site has a great section called the abcs of healthy relationships, which will provide many reminders about knowing when a relationship is not healthy.

Along those same lines, it is important to talk about the importance of friendship – and how you want the first few months together to be spent with family – because early in relationships the goal is to learn to trust each other, find things that you have in common, and become parts of each others lives. Friendship is stronger in the long run than hormones – and if either member of the couple is motivated by anything else other than love – s/he will not make it through the “getting to know all about you” phase.

P.S. Remember that the greater the age difference, and the more time alone they share, the more likely teens will take new love to sexual realms, so be aware and good luck!

This post, When Your Teen Starts Dating, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

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