It’s likely that when you first realize that your son or daughter wants to date, that you’ll be a little freaked out. You might think they are too young, or you may worry about all that comes with dating: the emotional pitfalls, the physical struggles and lust, the potential heartbreak, etc. Well, part of being a parent is being vulnerable to a life of worry for our children, so these feelings are only natural. However, if your son or daughter has come to you to talk about dating, then that is a great sign.
In today’s culture, I know a lot of kids that are just hooking up, sneaking around and hiding their relationships from their parents, so if you’re having honest conversations about the topic of dating, then kudos to you; you’ve probably done a good job of letting your kids know you are a resource in matters of the heart. Now down to the details. Whenever I work with youth and they start liking a special someone in their class, I ask them to think about what they want in the relationship and what they want in their future spouse. Even though the future (and marriage) is pretty far away for most of our kids, I sometimes find that helping kids think about their goals and dreams can bring a bit more perspective to the present. I always describe the things I most love and respect about my husband, and I share why they really matter in the tangibles. I also open up my own personal story of dating in high school. I think honesty (with wisdom) is the best policy as you discuss dating with your son/daughter. Help them to learn from your mistakes, without glorifying any of those mistakes that you’ve made.
I also ask some of these questions when I talk to teens about dating:
Does the person they want to date share their faith values? Do they share their same desire for and understanding of purity? Are they even allowed to date? What do they really like about this person? What does dating really mean to them? What does dating look like?
This helps me get inside of their head and make sure that we are at least on the same page. As parents (and mentors), it’s important too to explain how we would answer those questions, and to outline, in very clear terms, what we expect from our son/daughter as they date. Set up clear rules and guidelines, and involve the parents of the person that they date. I am always amazed at how many parents let their kids date people without ever meeting, or at least talking to, the parents involved. I also recommend that you sit down with your son/daughter’s boyfriend/girlfriend and making sure that they understand your household rules. Some examples:
- Group dates, except on special occasions (depending on the age of your son or daughter) – and explain why group dates are better than one-on-one dates for their life stage.
- No closed doors… whether they are watching a movie in the basement, or “studying” in another room, the door must always be open.
- No sexting of any kind. It seems like a shocking thing for a parent to say, but it needs to be said. Outline the possible outcomes/risks and punishment associated with breaking this rule.
- No making out while lying down. You may want to get into some specifics here, but I think being blunt is the best approach. Remember, you’ve been there too, and you probably needed some guidance and rules—help your kids to understand that you are trying to protect them.
- Set clear curfews, and make sure that when they are video chatting later, that they do so with the door open or in a public space. No late-night video-chatting.
Remember, overall, honesty and clarity is the best policy as you approach this subject with your kids.