7 Critical Lessons Parents Should Teach Their Daughters About Healthy Relationships

Photo: Albert Rafael | Canva 
Mother kissing daughter on the cheek

As parents, we all want our daughters to be fully prepared and ready for their first relationship and first love — and the ensuing love lessons each brings. The future of our communities depends on us being able to raise strong, confident, happy, and empowered young women who experience healthy love and intimate relationships. But, violence and abuse of girls and women are an epidemic in our current global culture. And it can make any parent worry. In this day and age, girls are the most vulnerable casualties of love and we need to help them avoid unhealthy relationships so they can make the best decisions about their love life.

There is plenty of research and statistics that give some perspective on how rampant the abuse in relationships is. (And I know that men are also affected by violence and experience abuse, but this article is about our girls and young women.) Did you know that in Canada, a woman is killed by a husband or boyfriend every 6 days? In the U.S., 3 women are killed a day by a former or current partner! Contrary to common myths about domestic violence, it does not discriminate by ethnicity or income level. Teen girls are going through a stage where relationships with peers and potential romantic partners become a priority. And good parenting states that we use this important stage to help them learn how to have a healthy relationship.

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Here are the 7 most important love lessons parents can and should teach their daughters about healthy relationships:

1. Follow your intuition and be true to yourself.

Your daughter needs to know that her intuition is a powerful decision-making tool so she should trust herself, first. Intuition is a "powerful way of knowing" but in our masculine-dominated culture — which values science logic and fact — we discredit and break the connection our daughters have with this powerful gift. Girls are told by our culture that what they know to be the right choice for themselves is illogical or irrational. When girls go out into the dating world, their intuition — though it may not always make "sense" — is a powerful way to avoid peer pressure so they can pick healthy dating partners and know their limits and boundaries. Teach her to rely on her intuitive compass by asking her, "What does your gut say about it?" or "What was your first instinct?"

2. Be a critical thinker.

Teach your daughter that the music she listens to, the books she reads, the social media sites she visits, and the advertising images she views influence her ideas about what a healthy relationship is. (Bonus points if you thought about Fifty Shades of Grey). Teaching critical thinking can be as simple as teaching her to ask questions or role modeling asking questions:

  • What does our culture say about being a girl?
  • How should dating go?
  • Where did you learn that?
  • What should intimacy be like?

Being a critical thinker is to ask, "What do I believe to be true? And why do I believe this? Is it true? What is untrue about it?"

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3. Know the difference between love and infatuation.

This is especially important in our social media and smartphone-dominated world. Texting and looking at someone's newsfeed will give a false impression that we really know someone — the image people project on social media is not always aligned with who they actually are. Teach your daughter to take her time getting to know someone — being in a relationship takes time and effort to build. Although, intuitively, first impressions are often accurate. At the same time, potential dates will always put their best foot forward so there is no rush. As we get to know someone we see that people are like onions, you can peel layer after layer to get to know someone's core values and character.



4. Jealousy is not a sign of love.

Jealousy is about control, not love. It is a major factor in teen dating violence by girls and boys. And even if it doesn’t lead to dating violence, jealousy often works in the opposite way than we want it to. The more jealous we are of someone else, the less likely we will be like them because we are coming from a place of fear and lack. Your daughter needs to know she is not in competition with anyone but herself. In a healthy relationship, there is no need to control your partner.

5. They are not in competition with other girls and women.

Don’t be a hater and ignore the haters. There is someone for everyone — we teach men, collectively, how to treat us. If a guy cheats on you, that means he is someone who struggles with commitment or honesty — not because the next girl is better than you. And, vice versa, your partner will likely treat you much like he treated his ex and you are no more special than she is.

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6. Figure out her own needs.

One of the gifts we have as women is the ability to feel empathy and the desire to help others. This gift is so needed in our world, but if you are always doing for others at the expense of your own needs, you can quickly become angry resentful, and even physically sick. Teach your daughter that the only way to give to others is to be aware of her own needs and communicate these to her partner, recognizing that we may be turned down.



7. Self-love is the most important type of love.

Most girls are brought up to place a great deal of importance on relationships — often, more so than boys. This can be a precious gift, but also can cause women to self-destruct. Life is a "gift and a curse." What is so special about girls being raised this way is that we truly have the potential to be the heart of our homes and communities. At the same time, girls and women often put other people's needs before their own.

Have you ever noticed that you or a girlfriend are often more concerned with what someone thinks of them? Or if a man is interested in them when they don’t even know if they are interested in the guy? Or, perhaps you've felt resentful of others when you are giving, making time, and putting their needs before your own until you are burnt out and angry? Teach your daughter to put their own needs and well-being before others. Loving themselves first and valuing the relationship they have with who they are becoming is the most important love lesson to learn to have a strong, loving, and equitable relationship. Parenthood is no easy feat when you have a teenage daughter. But, one of the best things we can do for them is to offer the best relationship advice to ensure they are safe and healthy when they fall in love for the first time.

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Samin Razzaghi is an ICF-accredited Life Coach with over 10 years of experience facilitating personal and social change.