When our children enter the world of teen dating it’s a scary prospect, fraught with questions and worries. How can we help them navigate their way safely through the pitfalls they might face and support them when their hearts get broken? You may want to read our article Teenage dating: 8 words you’ll want to know the meaning of which can get you up to speed with what teenagers today are facing in the dating world. However it’s one thing understanding the lingo your child uses when it comes to teen dating, and it’s another to know how best to talk to them about relationships. We’ve put together list of essential tips for parents entering the murky world of teen dating.
Keep talking to your teen
Teens are notoriously secretive, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. It’s almost impossible for them to imagine that you were ever a teenager yourself and can understand anything of what they are feeling. If you can talk to them about how you felt when you had your first kiss, your first date, your first boyfriend and your first broken heart, it can open up a conversation. It can help you both share your thoughts and feelings about dating. If you feel a little awkward about initiating chats about relationships, it can help to watch TV shows or films together and use them as a springboard to open up conversations about teen dating.
When they start relationships keep talking to your teen. Talk to them about what’s happening, how they are feeling and ask if they have any questions. Try not to judge them on the little things that you disagree with, instead let them slide. Focus on the big issues and the important messages. The more open and honest you can be, the more your teen is likely to open up and share their feelings with you.
Meet their date
Even if it’s not on the first date, encourage your child to let you meet the person they are dating so you can get to know them. Promise your child that you will not grill their new love interest and that you will do your best not to embarrass them.
Set some rules
When teen dating begins, it’s hard to find the balance. You want to make sure your child is happy and safe and your child wants more freedom and independence. Whenever they go out with a boyfriend or girlfriend you are entitled to know the answers to 5 important questions:
- Where are you going?
- Who are you going with?
- How are you getting there and back?
- Will you promise to let me know if the plan changes?
- What time will you be home?
Set some ground rules with your teen and make sure they know what will happen if they don’t stick to them.
Let them make the little mistakes
There will be times when you can see your teen hurtling towards a mistake that will lead to them getting hurt. It’s hard to stand back, but your child will not learn without making mistakes. Be there to talk to them, hug them and pick up the pieces when they are hurt. Help them learn lessons from their first forays into the world of teen dating.
Talk to them about not making the big mistakes
We all know how easy it is to be swayed by a girl or boy you really liked as a teenager. It can quickly lead to making unwise decisions and doing things you later regret. Make your child aware of the dangers around them and any warning signs they should look out for. In particular it’s worth talking to your child about the dangers of dating in the digital world. The mistakes your teen may make, could haunt them for a long time and they should be aware of it.
Why it’s important to talk about sexting
A private photograph that your teen sends to someone can easily be made public and to devastating effects. Your teen might be utterly convinced that their boyfriend or girlfriend is totally trustworthy but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The boyfriend or girlfriend might show a best friend, or worse still the photograph could get shared online. Check that your child understands that once a picture is online that they can’t control what happens to it. It can help to ask them how they would feel if someone other than their boyfriend or girlfriend saw an explicit photo that was meant to be private. Imagining the horror and embarrassment of such an image being passed around school, can help your child think twice before they share one in the first place.
Going at their own pace
Help your teenager understand that any relationship should involve mutual trust and that is something they should feel very sure about. Trust only develops over time. Talk to them openly about how, if they feel pressured to do anything that they feel uncomfortable with, they have the right to say no and they should say no. If they are feeling pressured or unsure about what they should or shouldn’t do make it clear that they can always come to you and talk about it. Tell them that you will listen and stay calm and not judge.
It can feel awkward talking about sex with your child but it’s always better to try and overcome your embarrassment and talk to them about staying safe. Have an open and honest conversation about contraception. Make sure that your child understands just how important it is to stay protected against unwanted pregnancy as well as STIs.
Remind them to put ‘mates before dates’
We all remember how all-consuming a teenage romance was. It’s so easy to dive in with both feet and neglect everything else in life, including friends. Wise parents also know that while teenage boyfriends or girlfriends might not last forever, good friendships can. Friends can be voices of reason when a relationship isn’t going well or your child isn’t being treated well. Having good friends around to help mend a broken heart can make all the difference. Encourage your child to keep in contact with their friends regularly and not to let them fall by the wayside.
There’s nothing quite like teenage love
It can feel scary when your teenager first starts dating and sometimes all you can see are the problems and pitfalls. Try to remember too, the amazing things about teen dating. There is nothing that quite meets up to the euphoria and giddiness of all those firsts: the first time he looks at you, the first time you hold hands, the first kiss, the first ‘I love you’. By dating as a teenager your child is learning and developing all sorts of skills that will help them in future relationships too. So be brave, be braced to help mend broken hearts and then join in the excitement of their first teenage romance.