One day, you are sailing along the preteen freeway at maximum speed, as if nothing could slow you down from raising the perfect child. Then, suddenly – you run head first into a major and crippling form of gridlock that although you prepared for, you never saw coming. At that moment, you are stuck in the metaphorical traffic that comes natural with raising a teenager. Teens and Dating. Your little girl has been asked to the movies by a boy. (The shock and horror) And even though you had the perfect detour already in place – you are pretty much paralyzed. Should you let her go? Should you stick to your rules of no dating until she is 16? Should you be mad? Excited? Frightened?
People tell you all the time that when your teen is ‘ready’ for dating – you will know. But the truth is you won’t. You won’t know if they are ready. There is no real way to know if your teen is ready to date, to know if you have said enough to keep them safe, or if they are mature enough to handle the ‘mights’ of going on a date with someone for the first time. Relying on instinct alone is not enough – because no matter how much your instincts tell you that you have raised a good kid, who is smart and good at making decisions – your heart will not be ready to set him or her a sail on the waves of dating disaster.
So what is a parent to do?
The first thing to do, is to get your head in the right place and refer to your rules. Chances are, whether to date or not to date is a question that has never been asked until this point. Which makes this point, the perfect time to come up with some rules. For instance, if your child is 15 – and you think 16 is a better age to date, then sit down with your son or daughter and explain the rules. Also, decide whether or not you are going to let your child go on dates with older people who can drive, or not? In other words, formulate your dating rulebook! Get with your partner and come to conclusive rules that include the age you will allow dating, what kind of dating you will allow, and a curfew. Also, what are the rules that the ‘potential date’ has to follow? Do you need to meet him or her first in the presence of your home?
Step two is to sit down with your teen and go over the rules. (Expect a lot of eye rolling and OMG’s)
It is recommended that you write these rules down because once your son or daughter realizes the opposite sex attraction thing, their attention span in all areas of life ceases to exist. Also, make sure that the rules of dating are contingent upon any new rules that you may want to put in place. For instance, if your child’s grades are falling, or if they are becoming a behavior problem, or texting too much – you have the right as a parent to revoke any and all dating privileges. (Notice the word privilege here. Dating is a privilege and not a right of your teen!)
The next step, is the hardest of them all – and it is to do your best to put off dating for as long as possible. The reality is that your teenager has their entire lifetime ahead of them to date and find romance. The teenage years are pretty confusing in and of themselves, and dating complicates that. Your teen should be encouraged to focus on activities that include the betterment of themselves above and beyond those that include mingling with the opposite sex. The longer you can keep them from becoming boy crazy or girl crazy – the longer they can focus on schoolwork or sports. Dating for teens is a huge distraction – and can be the fork in the road where everything runs amuck, especially if they have not developed a good sense of judging another persons character.
While dating in the going out to a movies or dinner with someone may be out of the question – it is a good idea to allow your teen to have supervised dates at home. This helps to promote your teens continued honesty, and shows them that you are willing to give an inch or two to make them happy. (Think back to when you were a teen and felt like the whole world was going to end if your parents didn’t let you do something you wanted to do) If the person that has caught their eye really wants to see your son or daughter, then they should have no problems coming home and meeting the family. When they do, it is important that you do your best to not embarrass your child, and that you welcome the person with open arms. Make sure that they and your child are acutely aware that even if you totally like this other teenager – the rules are still the rules. This is often a good way to run off the teenage boys and girls that are only looking to take advantage of your child.
If you haven’t done so already, this is also a good time to sit down and have an honest and yes, embarrassing talk with your sons and daughters about sex. You might be surprised to know that your teen knows much, much more than you think they do about these areas of life. Now is a good time to find out. Additionally, make sure that your child is clear about your moral standing and obligations – and throw out as many impromptu situations as possible to see what your child would do if one of those happened to him or her. This conversation can be hard, because it involves YOU being open and honest and comfortable talking about life issues with your child that you may have never really touched upon. And even though your teen may be rolling their eyes the whole time with their nose stuck down in their phone – the truth is they are hearing you, so keep talking.
Beyond that. Pray. For yourself and your child. Have faith that you have raised a good kid. And hope that as time goes on this part of raising teens will get a little easier. (It won’t, but there is always hope!)