The Dos and Don'ts of Teenage Dating
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 knew dynamic of raging hormones, but parents may questions the judgment and safety of their teen and the teenager resents any interference on part of the parents.
This can lead to strained relationship 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 ok.
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 OK 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, or 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 hypocrit and you will never have the relationship with them that you need.
3) Encourage Variety: Teenage dating is a great opportunity for the 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 hangs 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 things 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.
Don't (Grab the Shotgun)
1) Be Over Protective: Being overprotective--not trusting your child, over strict punishment or rules, and asking too many questions too quickly--can destroy your relationship with your child and be counter productive. Try not to expect the worst of them, unless they have repeatedly given you 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, this includes about the opposite sex, your child, your spouse, and about 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, 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, 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 effect them the rest of their lives. It may break your heart, it may break their heart, but it will be for their own good.