Does hearing the words teenagers and dating in the same sentence send shivers up your spine? This can be an anxious time for parents. We’ve all been there – most of us can still recall the high’s of being madly in love and the lows of being utterly heartbroken. We know what a mine field dating can be with getting to know yourself and others – and lets face it: their bodies and our own as well! Dating also indicates an important milestone in our role as parents as our relationships with our children start changing round about this time. We need to slowly let go of the idea of them as dependent children and start getting used to the idea of treating them as fellow adults (in the fairly nearby future).
Here are some tips on how to guide and support your teenager as he or she enters the dating phase:
- Let them know what your expectations and concerns are. Have a frank discussion about your family values and your hopes for them and the special people who might come into their lives.
- Set clear rules around dating. How many nights a week can they go out on dates and what is their curfew? What are the consequences for not sticking to these rules?
- Insist on meeting their date first and if they’re going out in a group -make sure that you have all their friends’ cellphone numbers. Make it clear that they have to let you know where and with whom they will be at all times.
- Don’t be too restrictive. If you ban them from certain activities – be sure to explain your reasons for doing this.
- Be there for them if they have questions and try to answer these without prying too deep into their personal lives. Probably the hardest part about letting your teen date is to learn to step back and to be okay with not knowing all the details.
- Teach them to treat those they are dating with respect and to expect the same in return.
- Teach your children the value of self-worth. Build them up and make it clear to them that they do not deserve to be treated badly. And also that the rejection of a relationship is not equal to being rejected as a person.