The start of teen dating…it’s often many parents’ worst nightmares! Once your daughter enters adolescence, there’s often nothing to stop the rollercoaster of dating that’s bound to begin. And, regardless of where you fall on the parenting spectrum (helicopter parenting versus hands-off parenting), giving your teen the right balance of oversight and privacy can be difficult to achieve at times. As you navigate the world of teen dating, here are some simple, yet effective strategies for making sure dating is a positive growth experience for your child:
Talk about healthy relationships. Unfortunately, many parents fail to have conversations with their teens about dating out of pure discomfort or procrastination. However, there’s perhaps nothing more important than having open, honest conversations so your teen makes positive decisions about whom they choose to date. Regardless of the dating guidelines in your household, your child should understand the importance of a respectful, healthy relationship. Being able to identify red flags in a potential dating prospect - such as control, belittling or manipulation – will help your teen steer clear of harmful relationships, as well as understand that they themselves should not act this way.
Provide guidance as needed. Regardless of how your teen may project themselves, remember they are at stage in their lives in which they are still developing fundamental relationship skills. While you should give your child a healthy amount of privacy (you don’t need to listen in on every phone call or see every social media post), there will be times when you need to check in and provide some guidance, especially when your child is confused, hurt or angry. There also may be circumstances in which you’ll have to intervene if your child is on the receiving end of a negative relationship. The bottom line? Even though your teen deserves some personal space, don’t completely remove yourself from her dating life entirely.
Establish some ground rules. No matter how mature or responsible your teen may be, it’s important to establish some ground rules up front. Things like having a clear curfew and setting parameters for online dating (as well as discussing technology dangers), are imperative for creating a healthy dating environment for your teen. These types of ground rules will allow your child to feel both safe and confident during their first dating experiences. Most importantly, you will have set shared expectations with your child so both of you are on the same page.
With the right approach, dating doesn’t have to put a strain on your relationship with your teen. And, while it may not seem like this right away, your child will appreciate your involvement in the long run.