When our teenagers start dating, it opens up a whole new world of challenges for parents. Whether it’s your son or daughter, you want them to have a positive experience. You can’t control their every move, but you can teach them the foundations of respectful behavior.
If you’re new to this teen dating thing, here’s some helpful advice.
6 Tips for Parents:
1. Acknowledge their nerves.
When my 13-year-old son started dating recently, we assured him that it was perfectly normal to feel nervous. We told him to think about it like he was merely at school hanging out with a friend and reminded him that his date was probably just as nervous as he was. I also gave my son a few example questions he could ask his date to make him feel less anxious about maintaining the conversation. Acknowledging your teen’s anxiety about dating will help them have a more positive and relaxed time.
2. Share in their excitement.
When your teens start dating, it’s an exciting new chapter for them. Try to share in this excitement! This is nothing for them to feel embarrassed about so do not stigmatize it in any way. When my son had his first date, our entire family piled into the car to drop him off. It was a family bonding moment for all of us to experience his first date along with him. Sharing in his experience opened up the channels of communication between our two younger sons as well.
3. Good manners still count.
Showing respect for the opposite sex should start young. Always lead by example by modeling appropriate behavior at home. Many old-school manners still go a long way today. For example, holding a door open for someone else, listening, using direct eye contact, asking questions and not interrupting while others talk. Teens now live out so much of their lives online that common courtesy and human consideration is more crucial than ever in combatting introversion and self-involvement.
4. Earn respect by showing respect.
Teenagers naturally gravitate towards gossiping about each other. Always teach your children that if they don’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all. There is no need to comment on others’ appearances, outfits, skin or hair. Everyone is figuring out who they are in the world. Be respectful to all in order to earn respect back.
5. Talk about sex.
Our children know way more about sex these days than we ever did (thanks internet!). However, this doesn’t mean that parents are off the hook for having that uncomfortable talk about sex. I recommend that instead of saying “Do not have sex!” try saying “Choose your partner carefully and make sure you feel certain it’s a person you think you’ll still be talking to a month from now.” Short and sweet points are critical here because your teen will be cringing.
6. Teach physical boundaries.
It’s important from a young age that we teach our children the value of their own bodies. Saying “you are the boss of your body” to both your daughters and sons teaches physical boundaries. These statements will stick with your children throughout their lives. It’s also important to teach them the value of consent. A simple mantra like “No means no, maybe means no, and yes means check again” will have a profoundly positive effect.
It’s not easy, but your children are growing up! Face the facts and do your best in helping them on their journey.