Teen Dating: Three Tools for Parents
Whether you’re ready for it or not, teen dating exists in the high school and junior high student’s world. Even if dating is not a priority for your teen or preteen, they are surrounded by their peers talking about it and engaging in it.
Your teenager is inundated daily with words, images, and opinions about dating and sex and everything in between—from talking to a “crush,” flirting, sexting, and beyond. Now is the time to approach the world of teen dating in a healthy way.
Have you approached the topic of teen dating? If you have, were you met with eye-rolls or blank stares?
Learning to communicate well with your teen is your best tool to keep them safe and smart when it comes to teen dating. These three tools will give you the answers and the guidance that you need to get the basics covered and have positive conversations with your teenager.
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1. Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume that your teen is or is not thinking about dating or sex. Also, don’t assume that your teen knows much about sex. Even though teen dating may be happening earlier than when you were in school, teens today are generally not any better educated about the topic.
Your teen in the dark about some important aspects of appropriate teen dating or sexual contact, and they are probably getting wildly inaccurate information from peers, television, or even other adults. Knowledge about teen dating can only help your teen and allow her to make a more conscious decision herself about whether or not she wants to engage in sex.
Direct your teen to reputable ways that he or she can learn more. Invite your teen to share with you his or her thoughts about dating, free from judgement from you. Perhaps most importantly, don’t assume that your teen is rebellious or needs to be punished if he or she is making reckless decisions when it comes to dating or “hooking up.”
Your teen may be like many others who struggle a self-esteem issue at this age. This will compromise their judgement or sense of self. Find a therapist for your teen so that they have a supportive outlet. A therapist who specializes in teenagers will help prevent depression and help your teen build their personal moral code and self-esteem, reducing or preventing any unsafe behavior.
2. Get comfortable
Chances are that having the “sex talk” with your parents was not your favorite experience. You may not have had that talk with them at all. This and other factors can make it especially uncomfortable trying to address the topic of teen dating with your own kids.
Your main goal must be to help your teen feel open enough to talk with you about anything that goes along with the world of teen dating. It is vital for your teen’s safety that they can confide in you without judgement. You cannot control their actions, and trying to do so will teach them to fear you, mistrust you or feel ashamed — yes, even if they haven’t made any dangerous decisions.
Your teen will be able to sense your own fear surrounding teen dating, and if you let fear of what could do wrong drive your conversation, your teen will pull away. The worst thing would be for your teen to be left alone with confusion. Put your own opinions aside long enough for them to want to talk.
Start thinking and talking with other parents about the topic of teen dating and sex. Select parents to talk to who seem to be communicating well with their own teenagers.
Your teen may not admit to you that they want to talk, but they will welcome the opportunity once they trust that you will listen. You can’t force your teen to talk to you and there will always be things that they keep from you. It’s best to accept that in order to focus on appreciating what your teen does share and to be sure to be there to really listen.
3. Develop your own (informed) opinion
There is no shortage of information and advice to be found through experts, friends, or Google. Keeping yourself educated is a good tactic. In order to make use of this information, stay in touch with your gut feeling and your morals. Your opinion will adapt, but don’t expect the answers for your family to come from anyone other than yourself and your teen.
Share with your teen what you know and what your opinions are about dating and sex. It is ok to want your teen to wait until marriage or a committed relationship to engage in sex. However, once you accept that you cannot control his or her choice about doing so, you will be able to be clear about your opinions and rules for your teen.
Studies show that talking about safe sex is the best way to prevent unsafe behavior. Even if you ask your teen to refrain from sex, they deserve to have enough information so that they can make their own decision.
Knowledge about sex does not make a teen want to have sex, and don’t use it to scare him or her away from sex. It’s vital for a teen to make an educated and conscious decision about dating and sex.
You wouldn’t want them to comply with pressure from others to have sex. Don’t rely only on pressure to not have sex to make their decisions about their body. Empower your teen to make that choice so no one else, not even you, is allowed to make it for them!
The most important thing you can do as a parent is learn to communicate well with your teen. Listen without judgement, finding adequate support for them, and connect them with facts. Help them make their own decisions.
View topics that cause stress for you as a parent as an opportunity to support your teen.
Don’t let your own embarrassment stop you from bringing up the topic of sex and teen dating. Don’t let your fear keep you from listening to your teen and accepting that they will make their own choices about their own body and lifestyle. If you feel that your teen doesn’t have an adult that they are comfortable talking with at this point, direct them to educational material or another trusted adult that she can also go to with questions and concerns.
More resources on sex and teen dating are at this link:
Whether you’re ready to talk about teen dating or not, download this article for future reference. It will be there when you need it (and of course, it’s free to download)!
CLICK here to download this article as a .pdf – for free!