Why It’s Important & How You Can Encourage Your Teen To Date (Safely)
It happened. You thought you were prepared, but one day you woke up to find that your child has become an adolescent. Suddenly, raging hormones and teen angst are the order of the day and trust me, it doesn’t stop there. Before long, your teen starts developing romantic interests and crushes. That’s usually when the panic really sets in for many parents.
I’m a dad of a teen girl—so I get it. For many of us parents, bringing up a teen is the most intimidating chapter of parenthood, and good communication with your teen happens to be one of the trickiest minefields to navigate—that and trying to maintain discipline.
All this is made harder when teen dating is thrown into the mix. You want your teen to develop healthy relationships and learn the appropriate social boundaries that come with dating, but you also want to shield them from the heartbreak and mistakes that young love brings. You find yourself trying to balance setting rules vs. giving them freedom or debating when to let them make their own choices and when to intervene.
Teen Dating Is Important For Development
As the parent of a teenager, it can be tempting to ban your teen from dating. But that wouldn’t work.
While the idea of our kids developing romantic interests can be uncomfortable to deal with, we should remind ourselves that it’s actually a good thing. Not allowing your teens to date and interact with those they are attracted to denies them the opportunity to develop healthy relationship skills.
Teens need to learn how to communicate, resolve conflict and plan things with a partner. Teen dating allows them to do that in a setting where you can help mitigate the consequences when the relationship ends.
Teen romances, fickle as they may be, add a layer of richness and happiness to their lives. It helps teens feel wanted and understood, while also giving them a chance to discover themselves by opening up to others. Additionally, teen dating allows teens to start thinking about the qualities and values to look for in a partner as well as how to give and receive respect in relationships.
Encourage Your Teen to Date Responsibly
If you’ve decided not to limit your teen when it comes to dating, there are some specific ways you encourage them to date responsibly.
- Help them date in the real world. The digital world has completely revolutionized teen dating. Nowadays, instead of bumping into each other in the school hallways, teens can conduct their entire relationships online. However, this makes them miss out on learning valuable social skills, including picking up on body language, facial cues, and other conversation nuances. Talk about this with your teen, as well as the dangers of online dating, and encourage them to prioritize in-person relationships over digital ones.
- Establish dating rules and expectations. Teens who are new at dating tend to have unrealistic expectations thanks to movies they’ve watched or books they’ve read. In real life, dates can be awkward and short-lived, so it’s best that parents prepare them for this reality. You can do this by sharing some of your own experiences and helping them develop socially graceful ways to extract themselves from a date gone flat.
- Encourage group activities or double dates. One-on-one dates can be intimidating for most teens and can lead to the kinds of problems that most parents think of when they consider their teens dating. Doing activities as a group or going on a double date with friends can take some of the pressure off. Better yet, have them bring their dates over for dinner or other activities so you can meet your teen’s date as well.
- Tackle those critical conversations. Teen dating can be fraught with pitfalls including sexual violence. It’s essential to talk realistically with our teens about things like safe sex, consent, sexual assault, and even dangers that lurk online. When it comes to the digital world, establish rules around cell phone and internet use that they have to follow.
- Give your teen a little privacy. Your teen is growing into an adult, so they need a little more privacy to live their lives than is granted to younger children. This, of course, depends on your teen’s maturity level and the circumstances. While you don’t have to monitor your teen’s every move, be aware of what’s going on in their lives and be available should they need you.
Treat teen dating as an exciting and positive experience and remind yourself that both you and your teen have a lot to learn from it.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on:Twitter | LinkedIn
I am always thankful to have Tyler Jacobson write for my blog because he covers a topic that I am not yet familiar with: teenagers.
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