First, have an open and honest conversation with your teen to discuss what dating means to you both. Ask your teen how she views dating. You may have very different definitions. Is dating with a group or only as a couple? Try asking open-ended questions that may encourage more dialog. As values questions arise, share what’s important to you, and learn what your teen expects from the dating experience. Why does she want to date? What makes her feel good about being with another person of the opposite sex? How does she expect to be treated on a date? Questions such as these can open the lines of communication and help you both understand dating expectations.
Second, take into consideration the level of maturity she exhibits in other areas of her life. Does she respect curfew times? How well does she handle school related responsibilities? Are the other relationships in her life, i.e. friends, siblings, teachers, etc. healthy and relatively happy?
Dating is such a sensitive topic that expectations and rules are oftentimes not clearly defined until after a problem arises. It is very important that you have examined the issue carefully beforehand and know what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable in your family. Only then can you set limits that you are prepared to enforce. Reassure her that your utmost concern is for her health, safety, and well-being.
ParentingTips: Teen Dating
Start by allowing her to attend group activities together with her ‘date’.
Welcome her friends, both male and female, into your home. Make home a fun place to be!! Give them space, but check in periodically.
Watch for inappropriate touching. Sometimes this takes the form of tickling and wrestling that may get out of hand. If you feel uncomfortable with what you observe, try to redirect them into something more appropriate. To avoid embarrassment, let her know after everyone has gone why you disapprove.
Teens do not naturally know how to date! Through these experiences, your teen will begin to learn how to function in a relationship. It is vital that you are available to listen and share when appropriate. It may be helpful to ‘role play’ certain scenarios so that if she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation she will be better prepared to handle it.
DO talk with her about sex. It is important for her to understand her own body as well as exactly what happens during the physical act of sex. If you don’t talk with her she may get potentially dangerous misinformation from her peers! Share factual information, but also communicate your values. Talk about the emotional cost of engaging in sex too soon.
Stress the difference between dating and sex! Dating is the time when two people get to know one another. Too often teens may think it is a “free pass” to the other person’s body. Teach your daughter how to say “NO!” and mean it. Teach your son that if their date says ‘NO’, they need to stop making advances. Again, ‘role playing’ exercises could be helpful to build your teen’s confidence.
When the time comes that your teen begins dating one on one, be sure you know where they are going, with whom, and what time you expect them to return. Be very clear with your teen about the rules and the consequences for breaking them.
Be a good role model! Your teen learns how to deal with relationship issues from watching you.