Ways to Discuss Dating with Teens

Communicate with teens about dating is very difficult for most parents. Here are some suggestions on how to make communicating with your teen easier:

  • First and foremost, make sure you are building a caring, supportive relationship with your teen.
  • When your teen feels loved and supported, this will open the lines of communication and trust.
  • Provide educational opportunities for your teen to learn about the biological, social, and emotional changes taking place during adolescence. Youth are interested in knowing about maturity (growth spurts and male/female biological differences) and enjoy applying this information in real life.
  • Take time to find out about your teen’s friends and schedule of daily events through conversation. This is a great way to learn about their peer network as well as what is important to your teen and their friends.
  • Ask your teen tentative, open-ended questions about potential romantic interests by use active listening. Do not embarrass your teen by publicly expressing information he or she shares in confidence.
  • Be open to discussing your own relationship experiences with your teen. Share how you define a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship. If you are currently in a significant relationship, let this serve as a role model for healthy relationship behavior to your teen.
  • Talking about romantic relationships with preteens or early adolescents will not make them more likely to date. Instead, inform your early adolescent or preteen of relationship myths that they may have heard or read from their peers and media.
  • Ask your teen to think carefully about dating: whether he or she feels pressured to date; whether they know of a teen couple who are having problems and the causes thereof, or what they think dating should be like. If possible, share what you know about current research in a caring and casual way.
  • Join your teen in watching his or her favorite television programs, particularly those that involve teens having romantic relationships. Refrain from commenting during the show but rather take time for discussion at the end of the program .
  • Share with your teen the positives of dating later in adolescence. Let them know your views and values on dating with an optimistic attitude, using positive examples as needed. Avoid dwelling on the “dos” of dating.
  • Be willing to support your older teen’s efforts to date, unless there appears to be a threat of psychological or physical harm.
  • Understand that your teen’s identity as well as their sexuality are still developing and may be fragile emotionally. Avoid letting your values dictate your teen’s sexual identity.
  • Sexual minority (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) youth usually face an enormous amount of confusion and difficulty during this time and need their parents support.
  • Inform your teen about the rules (and consequences) you have set on dating and why–the appropriate age of partner, curfews, which friends they are going out with, and contact information. Make sure to follow through with expectations and consequences.
  • Pay attention to the “double standard.” Do you set different dating rules for your son and your daughter?
  • Have positive ways to handle family conflict. Be flexible and willing to listen to your teen’s viewpoint and negotiate, without giving up your parental authority.
  • Being too strict may lead teens to rebel by making poor dating choices or engaging in other risky behaviors.
  • Encourage your young adolescent (13-15 years old) to go on group dates without your direct supervision (however, trustworthy adults should be present) such as a movie matinee, cultural/educational events, shopping at the mall, a theme park visit, an outdoor activity, or a field trip.

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