Reminders for Your Teenager (and You) Before their First Date
Ah, young love. It’s a wonderful time filled with butterflies, hormones and almost unbelievable awkwardness. Wow. I’m thankful I aged out of it a long time ago, and I’m thankful my kids have nearly made it out as well.
Whether your kids are in the midst of dating for the first time or you’re here to prepare for the inevitable, you should know that it’s not easy to be the parent of a dating teenager. But as with all things parenting, it gets a whole lot easier if you practice open and honest communication, set expectations and are curious about them and what they want in a relationship before you hand over your cash for movie tickets.
What kinds of reminders are necessary? Glad you asked. I think you’ll find that these are a good start:
- You don’t have to please who you’re dating.
Boundaries 101. While it’s important to be kind and engaging and attentive on a date, it is NOT your teenager’s job to keep their significant other happy.
Phrases to practice: “They can’t guilt you into making them happy. They can’t use pressure to get their way. That’s not how healthy relationships work.”
- If someone says, “If you really love me, you would…”
…then they don’t actually love you. That’s peak manipulation, and your kids should not stand for it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say “If you really love me, you would…” is grounds to end the date—or the relationship—then and there.
Phrase to practice: “It’s okay to say no if something makes you uncomfortable or you just don’t want to do it.”
- Parents should model what being a good date looks like.
Want your daughter to date a great guy? Well then, the job is simple, Dads. Be a great guy. If you treat your wife and your daughter with love and respect, your daughter will find someone who loves and respects her. It’s like magic.
Do you want your son to hold himself to higher standards, to be a gentleman, to put his date’s needs above his own? Model that behavior in your own life, and make it clear that you expect him to do the same on his date.
Phrases to practice: Make sure your partner and your child know how much you love them and how thankful you are that they’re in your life.
- No more lectures. Ask them questions about what they want in a boyfriend or girlfriend.
It’s quite possible that your child has no idea what they want in a romantic partner. They’re simply excited to have one. It’s your job to help them identify what they value and what they don’t. Here’s a sampler of questions you can ask to get the ball rolling:
- If a boy takes you out, what are some things he should and shouldn’t do?
- If you take a girl out, what are some things she should and shouldn’t do?
- What are you looking for in a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Will you put up with someone yelling at you?
- What are some behaviors or actions that would make you end the relationship?
- What are some behaviors or actions that would make you think this could be a serious relationship?
- What would you say yes to and what would you say no to? (Note: This question is intentionally open ended. It could be sexually, emotionally or spiritually, or even things your child could do on a date, like go to a movie or a party or a concert.)
Bonus tip: Have these talks on long walks.
This is something I’ve practiced for years with my kids. Having a deep discussion on a walk is a great equalizer. It’s definitely possible to have them at the kitchen table or in another room of the house, but it’s also likely the parent/child power dynamic will be at play there.
But on a walk, your child’s gaze is allowed to wander. Instead of feeling trapped and forced into a conversation, they feel free and are better able to express themselves. Try it.