Behavior & Development • Feb 06, 2014

Teens and Dating: A Parent’s Guide

teen datingDo you have a teenager? If the answer is yes, it is very likely that he or she is dating, or is at least showing interest in dating.  As a parent, you may be thinking, “I’m not ready for this!” or “My child is too young to be dating!” But, rest assured, the time is here, and it is better to be prepared for it than not.

Although it is often perceived that ‘young love’ is innocent and inconsequential, this is not the case. Every year, 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience some sort of physical abuse from their dating partner. The numbers are staggering, and, yet, it seems that no one is talking about it. Of those in an abusive relationship, studies indicate only 33% of teens ever told an adult about the abuse. In addition, 81% of parents do not believe that dating violence among teens is a problem, or admit that they do not know if it is a problem. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to discuss dating with your teen. To help ensure your teen has a positive dating experience, here are a few things to consider when preparing for your conversation.

Age matters
Dating is different for a middle-school-aged teen versus an upperclassman in high school. For teens in middle school, group activities such as school dances, going to the mall, movies or sporting events will give your teen a chance to spend time with his or her boy or girlfriend in a supervised environment. Individual time for teens this age will typically be spent on the phone or via text message. One-on-one activities in dating are more appropriate for older teens.

Rules
Depending on the age and maturity of a teen, parents need to decide what guidelines they will set in place for their teen in regards to dating. Will your teen’s curfew be different when out on a date versus out with friends? What dating activities are considered appropriate? Is it okay for your teen to date someone a few years older or younger? These guidelines are important to establish early on so there is not confusion in the future.

Sex
Even if you have already discussed sex with your teen, now is a time to revisit the subject and remind your teen of your family’s values and expectations.

Healthy relationships
Being in a healthy dating relationship as a teen can have its benefits. It can teach your teen to practice their communication and social skills, learn to think of others when making decisions, and how to apologize and forgive. However, it is important to remind your teen that a healthy relationship is one that is fun and based on respect, and neither party should ever feel physically or verbally pressured or abused.

Risks
As most adults already know, many teen relationships end up in heartache. Experiencing a broken heart is hard at any age, and every person reacts differently. It is important for parents to be ready for this aspect of teen dating as well.

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