Relationships & Adolescence


Adolescence is a time when teens develop new relationships and see a change in the dynamic of existing ones. These relationships come in forms: familial, friendships, educational, work and romantic. Much of this is informed by their interactions with friends and peers. However, it is vital that they also have healthy, functioning relationships with parents and other caring adult figures in their life. All of this sets a foundation from which their future relationships into adulthood are influenced.

Let’s look at the different types of relationships a teen may have and how they can benefit their development while also considering some of the potentially harmful aspects to watch out for.

Dating in adolescence

Many people first start getting involved in relationships and dating during their teenage years. When addressed correctly, this can have many benefits. Dating equips teens with the skills to develop and maintain healthy, mutually beneficial relationships as they progress from adolescence into adulthood. Indeed, this will benefit them in all relationship types, not just sexual or romantic. Dating in adolescence can help teens develop these valuable skills in forming positive, healthy relationships, becoming more aware of other people, and developing emotionally and emphatically. While many teenagers do start dating and going out with people during secondary school, not all do, and some may not get involved in relationships until their 20s. And this is quite fine.

Of course, as at any stage in life, teens need to be aware of potential unhealthy relationships. They should be wary of a relationship being one-sided. It’s a time when many will be exploring their sexuality. It is important that they never feel pressured to do anything in a relationship that they’re not comfortable about, nor should they coerce and pressure their partner into anything.

Teens & online dating

Online dating has become the norm with young adults these days; however, it is not common among teens. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen; however, teens must be aware of the pitfalls (and dangers) that come with it. Teens should be made aware of the dangers and risks associated with meeting what are effectively strangers online and that they’re particularly open to being groomed by predatory adults. Parents should discuss such online activity with their teens, and it should be a focal point in schools too; discussion should be sure to highlight these dangers.

Teens & Friendships

Friendships play an increasingly important role in our lives during adolescence. As teens go through significant changes in all aspects of their lives, for many, they find more empathic resonance in their peer groups than they do in their own families, as all are going through variants of the same thing. They quite possibly will turn to their friends for advice and confide in them before turning to their parents. This can have positive and negative benefits; good friendships formed in the teen years lay a solid foundation for their adult relationships, including academic, professional, and romantic ones. It’s when communications and other social skills are developed, and solid bonds are formed.

Negatively, it can also be a time when teens engage in otherwise uncharacteristic or even dangerous behaviour out of a need to ‘fit in’ with a friend or peer group. While positive friendship groups can be a great bolster to a teens’ development, a toxic one can serve to reinforce unhealthy beliefs or encourage damaging behaviour. As with all teen relationships, parents need to monitor their friendships without necessarily getting overly involved; trying to crush a negative friendship may only drive your teen away from you towards the bad influence.

Parent-Teen relationships

One of the most profound relationship changes in adolescence is between teens and their parents or other guardian figures. The teenage years are naturally a time when adolescents seek more independence from their parents and wish to make decisions and choices for themselves. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a firm stepping stone as they progress towards college and adulthood. However, there are risks here too.

Parents/guardians still have a role to play in guiding their teens as they go through this period; while they’re no longer small children, they’re still not at a stage where they should be given 100% independence from guardian figures; limits should still be set. There may well be friction between parents and teens at times, but parents/guardians need to be firm and put the teen’s best interests above the fear of a dispute. Being open and honest is important, and to show mutual respect, a condescending attitude towards your teen will get you nowhere. Instead, discuss with them your concerns and the reasoning behind curfews or similar restrictions, for example. Adolescence can be a firm foundation for a very positive parent|child relationship that lasts into adulthood.

Relationship dynamic changes in adolescence

Adolescence brings with it a time of change in a teen’s existing relationships with friends and family. Naturally, a teen will start to seek more independence from their parents; they can also seek more emotional distance, focusing on relationships outside the family unit. This can centre around their friends, wider social groups and dating/romantic relationships. They may feel more understood by friends in their peer groups than they do by family members.

To conclude, adolescence is one of the most influential periods in a person’s life regarding how they form relationships throughout their life. It’s undoubtedly a time of significant change and development, and positive relationships are a great help in helping to guide teens through this turbulent time. This extends to their familiar, friend, romantic and academic ones. Therefore, such relationships must be nurtured carefully and positively; any toxic one can negatively affect how they form and perceive relationships into adulthood.

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