It happened so fast you don’t know how you missed it. Wasn’t it just yesterday when your teenyboppers were three and playing with Barbies or toy cars? Weren’t they just toddlers clinging to your leg every time you go to the restroom? Time has a way of snapping us back to reality. The truth is that we blinked and somehow, your little ones are not so little anymore. They’re teens and they are on their way to finding out how excruciatingly painful the dating world can become.
How can you guide them through this most sensitive phase in their lives?
Know Your Boundaries
Don’t be in their face about your dating “rules.” You need to let them come to you. Make sure they know that they can go to you when they need advice. But at the same time, keep your ears and eyes open. Know when they’re way over their heads. Watch out for signs of depression that are often associated with feelings of loss and rejection.
Teens feel deeply. They get infatuated often. They “love” deeply. It’s important to understand that they don’t always see what you’re seeing. Think about yourself back in the days. How do you like your parents interfering in your affairs?
Have the Talk
There’s nothing wrong with having the talk. Make sure there’s mutual respect. Your kids should understand that you have the best interest at heart when you do this talk. You are not stopping them from dating, but you simply want them to know what they’re getting into. Once they are open to the idea of “the talk,” then that’s the best time to give and advice.
Help Define a Healthy Relationship
Teach your kids the difference between infatuation, love, and lust. They are going to experience these different things. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about sex. It is uncomfortable at first, but you have to do it for them. But before you do, make sure you’re also okay with the idea. Are you going to require them not to engage in premarital sex?
If they agree, one way to ensure they won’t renege on this commitment is to give them a purity ring. It’s a sort of reminder for when they’re tempted to stray.
Healthy relationships must be what your teens aim for when meeting significant others. They have to know the difference between what those butterflies in their stomachs mean and what actual true love is. Infatuation is not being able to sleep or eat, but love takes time. It develops as two people get to know each other. This should be clear to your teens.
Describe the Early Signs of Abuse
Unfortunately, dating also entails the risk of abuse. Your teens should understand when they are being abusive and when they are being abused. There are early signs in the relationship. Make sure they are aware of these signs. Physical abuse is easy to spot while emotional abuse happens through insults, humiliation, intimidation, and manipulation. If your teens or their partners are using guilt to “persuade” the other party to do their bidding, then that’s emotional abuse.
There’s also sexual abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse, and stalking. Talk to them about these dangers in every relationship. Just because a person says he/she loves them doesn’t mean it is true. Actions, in all cases, speak louder than words. That saying sticks because it is true.
Set Expectations and Limitations
Sure, you don’t want to look like you’re trying to control your teens, but you need to set boundaries, too. Since they’re still living under your roof and you are responsible for them, you have to talk to them about the limitations of dating. The most important thing is to discuss curfews. Are you going to allow them to be out until midnight or does 10 PM sounds fair? Let your kids participate in the discussion, so they don’t feel left out. Don’t leave the negotiating table until there are no ill feelings between you.
Offer Your Support
One way to show teens your support these days is to use gender-inclusive language. They might not feel comfortable enough to talk about gender preferences right now, but make sure they know you are ready to listen anytime. The dating process can be hell. You know it more than anyone. However, don’t ever belittle your kids’ feelings. Offer them your support even if they don’t think they need it.
Your teens’ feelings are valid. They sometimes feel you don’t understand them. That’s okay. Parents and teens are not supposed to see eye-to-eye always. It’s the greatest mystery of life. You just have to let them know that you are there, that there are rules, and that they can contribute to these rules.
Meta title: The Dating Talk With Teens: How to Deal With It
meta desc: It all happened with a blink of an eye. One day, they’re toddlers clinging to your legs. The next time, they’re teens and starting to date. How do you deal with that? Learn more here.