Navigating the world of romantic relationships can be scary for parents and teens. Not only is everyone trying to figure out the new dynamic of raging hormones, but parents may question the judgment and safety of their teen while the teenager resents any interference from their parents. So how can you as a parent cope with teenage dating?
This can lead to strained relationships in the family and, in some extreme cases, can push the young person to seek out unhealthy relationships.
How to Cope With Teenage Dating
Here are some tips to coping with teenage dating.
1. Make Rules Situational
Every child is different, and what they want, need, and go about dating will be different for every teen. While some may want to start “dating” as early as 12, others may not even show interest until after high school.
Embrace it, and use it to your advantage. What you do for your oldest may not work for your youngest—and that’s okay.
Rules may also change as each child get’s older, develops better (or worse friendships), or as you get to know whoever they are dating.
Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds should not be going on exclusive dates, but it becomes okay the older they get. The biggest help is to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Then set boundaries and guidelines in accordance with them.
3. Talk Every Day
There is nothing better you can do for your child than having an open and communicative relationship with them. They need to trust you and know they can tell you anything without losing your love, even if it may get them in trouble.
Talk to them every day. Tell them about your attitudes about sex and why you have the rules and boundaries about dating.
Encourage them to communicate about their fears, wants, and desires. Listen and be empathetic. Reassure them, give them advice when needed, and give them examples from your own life.
Most of all, be an example of who you want them to be. If you want them to have healthy relationships, you must show them how to do that.
Model the values you want them to have. If you don’t, they will think of you as a hypocrite, and you will never have the relationship with them that you need.
4. Encourage Variety
Teenage dating is a great opportunity for young people to figure out what they want (and don’t want) from a relationship and learn more about who they are and the areas in which they need to grow.
Encourage them to go out with many people, so they know what they want in a partner. In fact, make a rule that they cannot go out with the same person twice in a row.
Also, encourage your youth to try various activities on their dates, and they may discover a new hobby or talent in the process. Variety with boundaries will help ensure healthy relationships once they are older.
5. Meet the Dates
You should always meet the person your son or daughter will be going on a date with. This lets you make your own judgment about them, see how they interact with adults and show that they put your child before themselves.
This also gives you a chance to check in about their plans, where they are going, what time they will be back, etc. You can do this with group dates too—it’s important to know your children’s friends.
6. Let Them Make (Minor) Mistakes
Your children will not learn how to be in a relationship if they never make any mistakes. Of course, you should step in before any catastrophic, life-changing mistakes are made, but avoid stepping in or fixing every minor thing wrong in their relationship.
It will help preserve your relationship with them now, and they will thank you later when they are better at maintaining healthy relationships than their peers with helicopter parents. Be there for support, but let them do the bulk of the work themselves.
7. Don’t Be Over Protective
Being overprotective—not trusting your child, overly-strict punishment or rules, and asking too many questions too quickly—can destroy your relationship with your child and be counterproductive. Try not to expect the worst of them, unless they have repeatedly given you a reason to do so.
8. Don Be Too Hands-Off
It’s all about balance, and while you don’t want to be too overprotective, you also don’t want to just leave your teen completely to their own devices. This one is self-explanatory, but keep an eye on the fine line between too much and too little parenting.
9. Don’t Speak Negatively
Always speak positively to your child about the opposite sex, your spouse, and people in general.
Much of their worldview will derive from how you present it. So while not everything has to be fake or rose-colored, if you speak of yourself and others with dignity, charity, and humility, your child will be a more loving person with healthier relationships.
This is a good practice to get into for our well-being as well.
10. Don’t All Your Teen Neglect Family Time
Family time is important for a healthy family relationship and cultivating that open and trusting relationship you need with your teenager.
Your son or daughter should not be going out so much that you never see them, and you should set aside specific times to spend time together as a family.
Having dinner with each other as much as possible is a proven way to maintain a healthy family.
The Bottom Line
Dating can be a very exciting time for teenagers and their parents, but it can also be challenging. When teens start dating, they’re testing their independence and looking for ways to express themselves.
This means that sometimes they’ll make decisions you disagree with — and sometimes they’ll make mistakes. As a parent, it’s important to learn how to let go while still watching your teen’s safety and well-being.
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