Is your teen ready to date?
Is your teenager eager to start dating? Before you panic, here’s how to keep communication open, set boundaries and establish trust between you and your teen.
1. Talk but don’t interrogate
Don’t come across as too interrogative or it will make your teen clam up. It’s good to just make normal chit-chat so that they enjoy sharing their lives with you. Start with questions like “Who is that guy who always walks home with you?” or “Did you all enjoy the party last night?”
But if you do not get a full disclosure it does not mean a reserved teenager is trying to hide something from you. If you stay respectful, you will usually learn something of their romantic and social connections over time.
2. Understand the generation gap
The current teen dating landscape is very different from your time. Teens now pursue their romantic interests via social networking. Younger teens can even hook up and break up while never meeting each other face-to-face. What hasn’t changed since your teenage years is that sexual and romantic interests still begin at puberty.
3. Information versus independence
Parents need information, and teenagers want freedom. But parents are entitled to know the answers to the following four questions and trust teenagers to give truthful answers:
1. Where are you going?
2. Who are you going with?
3. Do you promise to call me if your going-out plan changes?
4. Do you agree with the curfew?
If teenagers does not respect the curfew and violates your trust then it may be best to set boundaries to discipline them.
4. How should you handle breakups?
Parents should try to be compassionate and not rely on clichés to try to make the teen less sad. Common platitudes like, “There are more fish in the sea,” “You are still young—you will have other chances in your life,” are not reassuring and sound dismissive. A broken heart can hurt as much, or more, than love at an older age.
Have a long heart-to-heart chat with your teen. Tell him or her your first breakup experience and how you healed from being broken hearted. This is a moment to share your emotions and bond. Your teen will feel less alone in this difficult time.
5. Bear in mind the benefits of dating
Being in a couple means bonding, communicating and developing coping skills for dealing with all kinds of negative emotions (such as disappointment and jealousy). If you can see past your anxieties about teenage sex or pregnancy, dating can make your teenager more emotionally mature.
Remember, no matter what happens your teenager still needs you to be there for them as a parent. In the end you want them to be safe and happy on their romantic journey into adulthood.
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