Helpful Tips to Help Parents with Their Dating Teenager©

Dating for teens is often not the dating that we as their parents experienced many years ago. Because of this, we often don’t understand the pressures and expectations they face. Hopefully these tips will help you both understand your teenager as well as establish guidelines and consequences to make dating a wonderful time of growth and fun for them.

How has dating changed?

Today there is a different understanding of what dating is…and it runs the gamut. When I grew up a boy asked you out, picked you up at a certain time, you went out together, and then he brought you home at a certain time. Now there is a range of what is considered “dating”. Now it is more referred to as “going out”, “seeing each other” and includes holding hands at school, going out with a group of friends, wandering around the mall, etc. It is important to not question this way of describing a budding relationship, or they will stop talking to you about it – and you don’t want that. The other end of this continuum is “hooking up” which implies sexual encounters, often very quickly into the relationship.

The expectation that dating can begin as early as 12 or 13. When I was dating, the standard amongst my friends was no dating until age 16.

An expectation that dating and sex are linked. There are a lot of assumptions now about this. Teen girls need to know that dating and sex are separate. Dating is spending time with a boy to get to know him better. Dating does not imply sex. Our daughters need to know how to set this line for themselves, and have a plan to get out of a situation with a guy that feels unsafe or uncomfortable.

There are greater concerns with increased drinking and drug use than there was when I was dating. Alcohol use makes people stupid. In 50% of arrests alcohol is a key factor.

How can parents approach the subject of dating?

Teens whose parents talk to them about dating, are better prepared and happier.

The important backdrop is establishing a close relationship with your teen, preferably from way back. Sometimes we can panic about things like dating and come down hard on the rules – without having a strong connected relationship. So, work on listening, spending time, being encouraging, as well as setting guidelines for dating. When a close relationship is in place, teens will be much more likely to take in your influence and advice about dating.

Try to be calm and in control of your responses. Overreacting, panicking, and controlling responses will just result in them shutting down and not sharing – and you want to keep the lines of communication open.

Dating guidelines and clear consequences need to be in a broader context of clear guidelines and consequences in other areas such as chores, curfews, how you treat others, etc. This will make the rules about do’s and don’t of dating more readily acceptable because they are part of existing training of standards, responsibility, and consequences.

Parents need to have clear guidelines in place about dating, what is allowable and not, as well as what the consequences are if these guidelines are broken. A written contract, which is crafted and signed by both parent(s) and teen can also be very helpful, and then there are no questions.

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Parents need to enforce consequences, even when teens try to persuade them otherwise. A teen’s brain is not fully formed and in shape to make wise decisions until 25, even if they sound like they know it all. Parents need to be empathetic with their teens, and stick to the guidelines they’ve both agreed to.

What I hear about in my office

Many teens are not prepared for dating emotionally and practically. There is a lot of naïveté’ about things like the possibility of date rape, a 33% chance of teen girl experiencing some kind of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse during a dating relationship, and the prevalence of STD’s.

Teens often haven’t developed the ability to trust themselves and their intuition and the sense to get out of bad situations.

They often don’t have an escape plan set in their mind, and a way to let their parents know they need help.