Dating is like an unofficial sign that your teen is really grown up and no longer your little boy or girl. It can be nerve-wracking to see your daughter being picked up for her first date, but it doesn’t have to be scary.
Define a healthy relationship
When your teen first starts to date, they won’t necessarily know a good relationship from a bad one. And even if they do, there can be factors that keep them in a negative relationship—for example, a manipulative boyfriend or girlfriend. You can help your teen avoid this situation by teaching them what a good, respectful relationship looks like compared to a bad one.
A healthy relationship is full of mutual respect, support, friendship and trust. There are different types of bad relationships but some signs to look out for include physical or emotional abuse, lack of respect and trust and fighting.
When you do decide to talk to your teen about dating, be calm and collected when you do so. You also want to keep your own relationship baggage to yourself. If you had a nasty divorce, don’t threaten your teen if you see her hanging out with boys and don’t tell her men are the worst. Be supportive and tell her what she needs to know to be confident and safe while dating.
Image Leo Hidalgo
Keep the conversation going
Show an interest in your teen’s dating life but don’t be too nosey. Ask your son how his girlfriend is doing and offer to drive them to the movies on Friday night. Unless your gut tells you there’s trouble, try to keep your opinions to yourself, even if his girlfriend isn’t your favorite. The more open, supportive and casual (but not too casual) you are with your teen, the more likely they are to open up and talk about their personal relationship issues or love stories.
The birds and the bees
This is a conversation that you should definitely have with your teen when they start dating (or even before), but it doesn’t have to be awkward. Your teen may not be ready to have sex yet, but they should still know the risks of unprotected sex and pregnancy and how to protect themselves against STIs. Be casual about it, but make sure your teen gets the point. You could even offer to take them to the clinic or pay for birth control or condoms, just to be on the safe side.
Always remember to be respectful when talking to your teen about dating. It can be a touchy subject and you may see a lot of eye rolls, but keep talking past that because they do need to hear what you’re trying to tell them. One day, they will thank you.
Feature image Garry Knight