Getting Gray Hair?
Navigating the world of romantic relationships can be scary for both parents and teens alike. Not only is everyone trying to figure out the new dynamic of raging hormones, but parents may question the judgment and safety of their teen, while the teenager resents any interference from their parents.
This can lead to strained relationships in the family, and in some extreme cases, can push the young person to seek out unhealthy relationships.
Here are 5 Dos and 5 Don'ts when it comes to teenage dating.
How Young is Too Young?
Do (Grab Some Wine)
1) Make Rules Situational: Every child is different, and what they want, need, and go about dating will be different for every teen. While some may want to start "dating" as early as 12, others may not even show interest until after high school. Embrace it, and use it to your advantage. What you do for your oldest may not work for your youngest—and that's okay.
Rules may also change as each child get's older, develops better (or worse friendships), or as you get to know whoever they are dating. Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds should not be going on exclusive dates, but it becomes okay the older they get. The biggest help is to know your child's strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and set boundaries and guidelines in accord with them.
2) Talk Every Day: There is nothing better you can do for your child than having an open and communicative relationship with them. They need to trust you and know that they can tell you anything without losing your love, even if it may get them in trouble.
Talk to them every day. Talk to them about your attitudes about sex and why you have the rules and boundaries that you do about dating. Talk to them about their fears, wants, desires—listen and be empathetic. Reassure them, give them advice when needed, and give them examples from your own life.
Most of all, be an example of who you want them to be. If you want them to have healthy relationships, you need to show them how to do that. Model the values you want them to have. If you don't, they will think of you as a hypocrite and you will never have the relationship with them that you need.
3) Encourage Variety: Teenage dating is a great opportunity for a young person to figure out what they want (and don't want) from a relationship, as well as learn more about who they are and the areas in which they need to grow. Encourage them to go out with many different people so they know what they want in a partner. In fact, make a rule that they cannot go out with the same person twice in a row.
Also, encourage your youth to try a variety of different activities on their dates, and they may discover a new hobby or talent in the process. Variety with boundaries will help ensure healthy relationships once they are older.
4) Meet the Dates: You should always meet the person your son or daughter will be going on a date with. This lets you make your own judgment about them, see how they interact with adults and shows that they put your child before themselves.
This also gives you a chance to check in about what their plans are, where they are going, what time they will be back, etc. You can do this with group dates too—it's important to know the friends your children hang out with.
5) Let Them Make (Minor) Mistakes: Your children are not going to learn how to be in a relationship if they never make any mistakes. Of course, you should step in before any catastrophic, life-changing mistakes are made, but avoid stepping in or fixing every minor thing wrong in their relationship. It will help preserve your relationship with them now, and they will thank you later when they are better at maintaining healthy relationships than their peers with helicopter parents. Be there for support, but let them do the bulk of the work themselves.
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Don't (Grab the Shotgun)
1) Be Over Protective: Being overprotective—not trusting your child, overly-strict punishment or rules, and asking too many questions too quickly—can destroy your relationship with your child and be counterproductive. Try not to expect the worst of them, unless they have repeatedly given you a reason to do so.
2) Be Too Hands-Off: It's all about balance, and while you don't want to be too overprotective, you also don't want to just leave your teen completely to their own devices. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but just keep an eye on the fine line between too much and too little parenting.
3) Speak Negatively: Try to always speak positively to your child—about the opposite sex, your child, your spouse, and teenagers in general. Much of their worldview will derive from how you present it. So while not everything has to be fake or rose-colored, if you speak of yourself and others with dignity, charity, and humility, your child will be a more loving person with healthier relationships. This is a good practice to get into for our own well-being as well.
4) Neglect Family Time: Family time is important for a healthy family relationship, as well as cultivating that open and trusting relationship you need with your teenager. Your son or daughter should not be going out so much that you never see them, and you should set aside specific times to spend time together as a family. Having dinner with each other as much as possible is a proven way to maintain a healthy family.
5) Be Afraid to Veto: As a parent, sometimes you just have to pull rank and "veto" something your child wants to do. Whether it be a particularly toxic relationship, a dangerously reckless activity, or a detrimental pattern of behavior, ultimately a parent sometimes has to risk temporarily hurting their relationship in order to prevent a mistake that could affect them the rest of their lives. It may break your heart, it may break their heart, but it will be for their own good.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What should to teenagers do while dating?
Answer: Teens should try to understand the perspective of their parents. They should be safe and open with their parents, and they should realize that this is a time for learning what they want in a spouse or partner. In general, its ok to "shop around" at this point as long as its done maturely and safely.
Question: My boyfriend and I just got back together. He wants to kiss me but I am afraid. What should I do?
Answer: If you have parents that you feel comfortable talking to, try to ask for their advice. Personally, I would say that you're very young, use this period of dating to figure out what you like, and don't like, in a relationship. I can't really say whether you should kiss or not... I know what I would tell my daughter. Talk with your boyfriend and talk about very clear boundaries, and do not allow yourself to be pressured into moving beyond those boundaries which you set. Anyone who cares about you will not pressure you to go past what you're comfortable with.
Question: How much time is too much time spent on a date?
Answer: I think it depends on the situation. Different teens and family situations will dictate how long each teen can/should spend on a date, or how late they can be out. Make sure you set the expectations beforehand and stick with them.
Question: My niece is allowed to sleep overnight with her boyfriend in separate beds but the same bedroom. I feel this is a recipe for disaster and having a 12-year-old daughter and needing to specify to her that this is not normal behavior. What would be the best way to articulate the reasons why this shouldn’t take place until they are much older?
Answer: It probably is a recipe for disaster, but you can explain it to your daughter. First tell her some people raise their children differently, and you're just trying to do the best you can to make her a happy, healthy, safe child and future adult. How you proceed is kind of up to you, depending on what you believe about the role of sex in a relationship.
In general, I'd tell her that sex is very special, because it forms a special bond with the person, and can also result in pregnancy and STDs if you're not careful. Because of this, it should only be done after serious thought, when you really love someone, and with someone you are committed to (marriage, maybe). Tell her that you worry that sleeping in the same room together, even if they're in different beds, may make it a lot easier to do something you might later regret, and because you don't want her to get hurt, you believe men and women who are in a relationship shouldn't sleep in the same room together until they are ready to have sex.
This view is on the more conservative side, but still relatively balanced. It's up to you to decide with your daughter if sex should be saved until marriage, and if not, how old and under what conditions does "safe sex" occur.
Question: What is your stance on teens dating online, and skyping and texting and all of that? The boy my friend's kid is dating seems sweet, and we've verified his age and everything, but with all of these crazy articles and things battling about whether online dating is good or bad, what's right here?
Answer: Online "dating" is tricky. While adults can be very successful at it, I don't think its for teens for a couple of reasons. Are they "dating" or just talking frequently? Teenage dating should be face to face so they can develop actual relationship skills, finding what they like and don't like in a partner, and learn to be comfortable with the physical boundaries they've set with each other.
If there's not a reason for them "skype dating" (if they're not long distance or something), push for them to have a few dates in person, maybe group dates or supervised dates, at first. Otherwise what they're doing is just maintaining an intimate friendship... which can be fine and valuable for a teenager to have, but isn't dating. Make sure the parent has access to all their chats, and that clear expectations are set out about should and shouldn't be talked about.
Andrew on July 04, 2020:
Is it ok to kiss and romance your girlfriend.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 25, 2020:
There was a time I would have loved to read this article, it was when my daughter was in the age groups you address. At that time, all articles I found were about little children, not kids getting older and dating. Anyway, better late than never. I'm glad you wrote this article.