The word ‘dating’ sends parental anxiety skyrocketing when teens explore their newfound freedom and discover relationships. This topic can cause parents to explode and teens to rebel. Before the situation escalates, creating clear expectations and guidelines for dating is best.
Be in the ‘Know’
Dating conversations between kids materialize as early as middle school. Often, it’s anticlimactic, and parents are over-concerned when they hear the word, dating. But what does modern dating look like?
In 2022, teens texting each other on social media is considered dating. Everything is virtual, and discussions about in-person meetings haven’t started.
When your teen arrives home one day and proclaims, they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Don’t panic! Start a conversation. Ask these four simple questions before determining the following steps:
- What’s your friend’s name?
- How did you meet?
- What do you like about this person?
- What do they want to do for fun?
If your teen gives vague answers and tells you they’re texting, give yourself a sigh of relief and start planning for the next stage of dating. Start with proactive conversations to help your teen navigate the dating era of development.
Age Appropriate Dating
Dating in the traditional sense starts at about age 15 or 16. School dances and other opportunities present themselves for person-to-person dating. This is often when teens become more interested in exploring interpersonal relationships.
Be ready to set clear guidelines to help prepare your teen to maneuver this unexplored territory. Teens need to learn that dating comes with great responsibility. During this time, teens gain insights into how they like to be treated and how to treat others.
They also learn valuable lessons about self-control and respecting boundaries. Dating allows teens to practice how to self-advocate and protect themselves.
Set Clear Expectations
When your teen shows interest in dating, initiate conversations about your expectations. Start with a list that details what is okay and what isn’t okay as they grow and mature. Each set of expectations builds upon the other.
- Age 13-14 Texting is appropriate.
- Address sharing is a hard no.
- If someone asks to meet, they must tell their parents immediately
- Stay safe, and never meet someone you don’t know without your trusted adult
- Use a phone tracking app for safety
- Age 14-15 Meeting in person
- Meet the parents
- Arrange a public space for the meeting
- Meet in a group
- Never go off alone
- Age 16-17 Practice responsible dating and relationship building
- Discuss and model respecting your partner
- Set clear rules for meeting alone
- Discuss what to do if a date goes bad
- Always have a backup plan
Be sure to talk to your teen about dating safely. Informed awareness plays a key role in keeping teens from harm. Sit down with your teen and create a list of do’s and don’ts that may look something like this:
- Before going on a first date, make sure to meet the person and their parents
- The location finder must be on and stay on
- Go out in a group
- Beware that the person you are dating may want more than you want to share
- Check-ins are required.
Look for Signs of Toxic Dating
Toxic dating situations arise without notice or expectations. Don’t hover or invade your teen’s privacy. Instead, monitor the relationship through open conversations. Being aware of changes in behavior signal possible detrimental problems in the relationship.
Abusers attempt to isolate their victims through emotional grooming. Bruises may be another sign control over a person is being exerted.
When Parents and Teens Clash
Teenagers drive their parents crazy when they don’t follow the rules or expectations. Sometimes it seems like they do this purposefully. So how do you handle your teen when they start to break the rules?
1, Have conversations when both parties are calm
2. Ask questions to understand the thought process behind the misbehavior
3. Re-explain the expectations and appropriate dating behavior
4. Follow Through – It’s okay to revoke privileges
5. Be Consistent every single time
If you find your teen is continuing to spin out of control, It may be time to reach out. At Help Your Teen Now, we pride ourselves on helping families find the resources they need to help their teens. For a teen that constantly makes poor dating decisions or refuses to follow the house expectations, getting your teen the help they need is critical to development.