As teens begin the dating process, parents need to be aware of what is happening at all times, but this doesn’t have to be unpleasant or adversarial. Having a parent in his or her corner gives teenagers the power and authority to do what they know is right. Open discussions about what is expected of them adds clarity and boundaries.
Teens Should Start Dating Slowly
Teenagers don’t have to start dating one-on-one. Group dates offer opportunities to get to know others without the awkwardness of being paired off. They also get to see how the other person interacts with a large group of mutual friends.
Once the teens go out on regular one-on-one dates, set a curfew rule and limit the frequency of dating. Once or twice a week should be enough for a young teenage couple to see each other outside their regular environment.
Parents Should Know the Person Their Teen is Dating
Parents should insist on meeting the person their child is dating. This can be planned as a meeting in advance of the first date or as simple as a brief introduction at the door. Parents can use this opportunity to reinforce their rules to the other person.
If it can be done without awkwardness, the parents may wish to encourage the couple to come inside and play games, watch TV or bake cookies. Even if the parents aren’t in the room with the teens, their presence adds an extra layer of support.
Know the Teen Date Details
It isn’t unreasonable for parents to expect details of the date before it begins. This is also a good time to express expectations on curfew and other activities.
Examples of questions to ask teens before the date:
- Where are they going?
- Who is driving?
- Who else will be there?
- Is the event chaperoned?
- What time is the event over?
Expectations to express to the teens:
- No alcohol.
- No drugs.
- Call if anything doesn’t seem right or makes the teen uncomfortable.
- Call once during the date to confirm that they arrived at their date destination. Have a code word for the date not going well, in case the other person is listening.
Decide the Age for Teens to Start Dating
Set a specific age for each dating activity that is allowed. This may be that a group get-together is allowed at age thirteen or fourteen and a double-date is allowed at fifteen or sixteen. Exceptions may be made for special occasions, but general moral expectations remain intact.
When teenagers first start to date, they should stick to other teens who are within a year or two of their own age. Dating someone much older may put the teen at risk of a sexual encounter he or she isn’t ready for.
Parental Availability and Teen Dating
Parents should let their teenage children know that they are available at any time. This includes discussing what to do on a date, picking them up if they are uncomfortable during the date and being there to listen after the date ends.
Ways to get teens to talk:
- Helping plan what to do during the date.
- Share the most embarrassing moments of their own dating experiences.
- Have a light snack ready for them when they return home.
Dating is one of the rites of passage for most teenagers, so make it a pleasant learning experience for them. Protect them by encouraging them to start slowly, getting to know their dates, knowing the details of where they are going and establishing rules. Be available before, during and after the date to help with any questions and concerns the teen may have.