Relationships have a huge impact on our lives. The people we are close to can influence who we are and who we become. We can get lost in someone, especially if it’s in an intimate relationship.

This gets even more complicated with today’s “hookup culture.” What does that even mean?
A hookup is a casual encounter that can be anything from making out to having sex. It really depends on how the people involved define it, and it varies greatly from teen to teen. Hookups are usually impulsive and as your teen might say, just for the fun of it.

There is a lot of pressure on our kids to hook up, even if it’s with a friend (think “friends with benefits”). If you talk to the average teen they probably won’t see the big deal with hooking up. This concerns me, especially because for a lot of teens hooking up means sex, and a lot of times sex with a stranger. It’s often spontaneous, unprotected and their first time.

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Though they might want to, your teen will not be able to easily detach their emotions from physical intimacy. Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Amen explains, “Whenever a person is sexually involved with another person, neurochemical changes occur in both their brains that encourage limbic, emotional bonding. Yet limbic bonding is the reason casual sex doesn’t really work for most people on a whole mind and body level. Two people may decide to have sex ‘just for the fun of it,’ yet something is occurring on another level they might not have decided on at all: sex is enhancing an emotional bond between them whether they want it or not.”

So what our teens are calling casual is actually creating attachments to each partner they have while their brains develop. These experiences wire their brains for certain expectation and outcomes, can create trust issues, and impact their future long-term relationships.

We can get lost in someone, especially if it’s an intimate relationship.

You might be saying, “wow it’s not that serious” – but to me it is. I have seen friends morph into people they never wanted to be because of their dating relationships. I have seen emotional and physical abuse in relationships that should have never started. I have seen teen pregnancy and STDs. It is very serious.

With a little help, young adults can make choices that help them move in the direction of having a healthy, value-building relationship in their future by making the choice to put high standards on who they date and allow close to them now. Helping them navigate peer pressure is a great place to start.

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For more tips on how to handle peer pressure and set good boundaries, read the article How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Friends.

Now What?
3 Possible Action Steps:

  1. Share this journal with the teens in your life. Use the story to be an icebreaker to start the conversation about your teen’s dating relationships.
  2. Have a conversation in their language. Ask them the awkward questions like:
    1. Are you hooking up? What does hooking up mean to you? 
    2. What kind of relationships do you want to have when you are an adult (older)?
    3. How do we attract the kind of person we want to be with? Don’t be afraid to feel weird to get the core of what your teen is up to and feeling. It’s more important to have a positive influence on our kids’ ability to develop healthy dating relationships than it is to be “cool”.
  3. How do we attract the kind of person we want to be with? Talk to your teen about the qualities and attitudes they are looking for in a partner.

Lets Talk:

What did you do to get noticed by your high school crush? Would you allow the guy or girl you liked to treat you less than great just because you wanted their attention? What did you let slide because you hoped they would want you?

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