It Might Be Scary, But Encourage Your Teen To Date
By Tyler Jacobson
Your little girl or boy isn’t so little anymore. They’ve grown up and moved into their teen years. Even scarier, they’re starting to take an interest in dating and romance.
As the parent of a teen boy and girl with two younger ones growing up too fast for my liking, I understand how nerve-wracking teen dating can be. Navigating the world of romantic relationships can be scary for both teens and their parents. You find yourself trying to figure out the new dynamics brought about by your teen’s hormones as well as how to keep them safe. Your teen meanwhile, won’t thank you for your interfering in their lives.
Why Teen Dating Is Important
It’s understandable that you want to shield your teen from the heartbreak and mistakes that young love brings. However, you need to consider that dating is actually beneficial.
For one thing, those teen crushes and romantic interests add a layer of richness and happiness to your teen’s life. They feel wanted, loved, understood and accepted.
Additionally, going on dates helps your teen discover more about themselves as they interact with others. They get to learn how to give and expect respect in relationships, how to communicate, resolve conflict and even accept rejection gracefully. Through dating, your teen starts to refine the qualities and values to seek out in a partner as well as how to articulate their wants and needs in a relationship.
Encouraging Responsible Teen Dating
Denying your teen the chance to date and interact with those they’re attracted to means that you’re limiting their ability to develop healthy relationships. Instead, work on being supportive and understanding. You can help shape your teen’s dating standards and build up their confidence and self-esteem.
So how do you encourage your teen to date? Here are some things which I have done with my teens:
- Going over dating dos and don’ts. While teen dating shouldn’t be discouraged, you have to help your teen set healthy boundaries. This means letting them know your stance on alcohol, drug use, curfew and setting rules that you both agree on.
- Having those tough conversations. Dating is new and exciting, and this can blind your teen to certain dangers. Talk candidly with them about sexual violence, asking and giving consent, sexual identities and using protection. Since teens spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s also a good idea to go over both the positive and negative aspects of online dating.
- Setting them straight about real-life dating. Hollywood movies and romance novels fill teen heads with notions of the “perfect” romance. Unfortunately, this only gives teens unrealistic dating expectations that set them up for crushing disappointment. Prepare your teen by letting them know that in the real world, it’s ok for dating to be awkward and short-lived. Also talk to your teens about porn, and how it affects young minds with its unrealistic portrayal of sex and relationships.
- Insisting on group activities first. Going on one-on-one dates can be intimidating and overwhelming for most teens so insist on a group activity or double dates at first. This helps take the pressure off and allows each party to know the other without rushing things.
Like other milestones in your teen’s life, dating isn’t something to dread. Keep an open mind, and you’ll be surprised to find that both you and your teen can learn a lot from it.