Tips on Parenting Teens: Dating

Dating sparks some pretty big fears for parents. Sex, drugs, drinking, getting in trouble – these are our first thoughts when we see that our teens are showing interest in dating. In Slow Parenting Teens, we remind you to look at your fears and to handle them with another adult.

Your teen has plenty of his or her own concerns about dating, and your fears are just piling on. So how do slow parents handle their teen’s first date?

First, look at your fears, own them, and think about how you can be comfortable with your teen dating. This could mean that you want to meet the date, that you want a phone call during the date, that you want to know where they are going and what they are doing, and if an adult is going to be present.

Maybe you need to wait up for your teen or make sure they wake you when they get home. Think of what you need and talk to another adult about your choices so you can have a sounding board for your ideas.

Then consider your teen’s personality and what you can do to support your teen during this stressful time. They don’t innately know how to handle the dating scene, and it is stressful.

Teens learn about dating and relationships by seeing what goes on around them, so be the best role model you can be. Every teen is different, and what works well for one might be a bomb with the next one.

My oldest son always had someone he was dating. His freshman English teacher teased him that he was always giving some girl a hug before he ducked into class. We talked regularly about his relationships and his choices.

My youngest son had friends who were girls, but he didn’t date anyone until he was a senior. He found the dating scene baffling, and he just stayed out of it. He didn’t want to talk about it very often, but when he did, I dropped everything to listen. Same background, same values at home, just really different people handling a situation differently.

Slow Parenting Teens teaches that a parent’s main job is to be the safe place for their teens to come and just be who they are. Knowing your teenager as you do, what can you do to build your relationship while being appropriately helpful with this tricky issue?

Here are some basic considerations:

  • Keep your lines of communication open.
  • Remain the safe place for your teen to talk, or not.
  • Educate your teen about what you think is important in relationships.
  • If you have some house rules about dating and curfews, discuss them with your teens.
  • Say thank you when your teen adheres to the house rules.
  • Be sure your teen knows that you will always be available if he or she needs some help – you will come get them up if they need a ride, you will answer the phone, you will support them.

If you find that you need to change your rules to be comfortable with your teen dating, then change them. You can draw up a contract with your teenager about dating rules. Denise Witmer provides a free printable contract at about.com . Be sure to explain that the contract is for your comfort, not for your teen because that is the case.

Dating is one of the many signs of independence that teens show. As a parent, you need to support your teen and not undermine her.

You have raised your teen to be thoughtful and responsible, and dating puts your confidence in his judgment to the test. Think through your concerns, respect your teen’s personality, build your relationship, and be open to continuing dialogue.

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