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Back to School Series: Going Back to High School

Sexuality, Dating, and Drama: Helping Your High Schooler Deal

Going back to school can be stressful at any age, but different age groups present different challenges.

In high school, students will experience the new and unique stresses associated with being sexually active. Here's how sexuality, dating, and expectations can affect your student, and what you can to do to make going back to high school easier and (slightly) less complicated.

Make your home a place of open, comfortable dialogue

Many of my strategies for helping ease your child's anxiety around transitions involve open communication. It sounds so simple, but the topics that teenagers need guidance around are complicated and often uncomfortable to talk about.

From freshman year on, demonstrate that you're willing to answer the tough questions and listen without judgment. Providing your child with a safe space to explore sexuality, dating, and the expectations around all of these things is one of the most effective ways to ensure they make responsible choices about their bodies and minds.

Teaching your teenager to establish personal boundaries

Remember, your children learn how to communicate from you. Establishing healthy communication patterns at home will empower teens to communicate within their own fledgling relationships.

Let's look at the example of talking to your son or daughter about sex. If you've already had an open conversation around things like consent, your teen might find it easier to say no to an uncomfortable situation.

When teens have some level of comfort tackling the tough stuff, they're more likely to set healthy expectations and boundaries in their dating lives. They'll also be more likely to make safe, responsible decisions.

Be aware of the pressure your high schooler might be feeling

Teens are under intense pressure to participate in things like dating, flirting, sexting and more, but they often misunderstand the ramifications of these activities.

Again, communication is key. Your high schooler might roll their eyes when you try to bring these topics up, but that doesn't mean you should stop. As the parent, you're in a position to explain how these things can impact your child's school life, social life, and more.

Dealing with the hard stuff in high school

Despite your best efforts, your teen may end up ensnared in dating drama. They may even develop a “reputation”. The reasons for this span a vast spectrum, but the most important thing you can do is be there for your teen. Listen, let them cry about the unfairness of it all, and try not to pass your own judgments (they're getting enough of that from their peers, trust me).

When the time comes, remind your high schooler, “this too shall pass”. Explore coping mechanisms together, think about how similar situations could be handled differently in the future, talk about how they might respond to comments from their classmates, and simply be there for them as they learn how to overcome the tough times.

If you're looking for more tips about dating for your high schooler, this article from Planned Parenthood about what you should teach your high school-aged teen about sex and sexuality is an excellent resource.