When a teen begins to date, parents experience another rite of passage. A serious dating relationship can be an indication that your teen is taking another step towards becoming a responsible and independent individual. But, as every parent knows, the road is fraught with dangers.
Here are some guidelines for parents when a teen begins to date:
Be wary of social media. Most of the plans teens orchestrate take place via Facebook, Twitter or texting. This can leave parents in the dark about where their teen is going and with whom. Thus, communication between parent and teen becomes critical. It is your right and responsibility to know where your teen is going and with whom.
Be the parent. Establish rules of dating behaviors that are appropriate for your family. This includes whether or not you want to meet the person your teen is dating (you should) and your stand on the use of alcohol or drugs. Make sure your teen knows not to tolerate disrespect or abuse.
Remember who is doing the dating. Put aside your prejudices. Just because your teen is dating someone with a different background, social class, religion or ethnicity doesn’t justify your disapproval. Neither does the fact he or she is a vegetarian or sports tattoos. Be flexible and understanding and don’t project your teen’s entire future.
Respect your teen’s privacy. Your teen is likely to pull away if you are over intrusive. Forego spying on your teen, whether in real time or electronically.
Be realistic. If your teen is having sex, it’s likely you won’t know. Although you should have already had “the sex talk, ” now is the time to repeat the conversation. Talk about the temptations facing your teen, what your expectations are, and safe sex practices like condoms and birth control. Make sure your teen has accurate information and knows he or she can come to you for additional information or advice. They are listening even though they are likely not to reveal any private information.
Extend trust. When you extend trust, love, and open communication, you are likely to receive the same in return. You can’t prevent your teen from making mistakes but you can be there when you are needed.