When Teens Start Dating - Tips For Parents

Many parents have fears when their teens start dating. These fears are often based on the fact that their teens are becoming adults, and parents worry about having less control or influence over them.

It's not that parents are control-freaks or always want to be in charge. It's simply hard to let go and trust that when teens start dating they will do so responsibly and avoid the well-known pitfalls.

Here are some tips to help you through this time, particularly if it's a scary one for you.

There's no substitute for communication, so work on having a positive, friendly, open relationship. Strangle fear thoughts at birth, as these will 'communicate' to your teens - and when teens start dating there's nothing that puts them off more than fearful parents!

Believe it or not, although your teens may think you are an old fuddy-duddy, you know more about dating than them. They may think they know it all, but since their information is gathered from the media, deep down they're not really sure of themselves. They know that what they read and see on 'teen programs' is not the real world. It's fantasy, meant for entertainment, not for education.

So they'll appreciate a little advice from a friendly quarter. If you've worked on your relationship with them, that 'quarter' will be you. And remember you don't always influence others by speech alone. Actions speak louder than words, and if you role-model a positive relationship with your partner, your teens are more likely to be influenced by that.

Some parents think that when their teens start dating, the parent's job is done. Of course it's not. Ongoing support and advice are necessary. Keep emphasizing the respect aspect of dating: your teens should treat their dates with respect, and should expect the same treatment in return.

Problems and hitches will arise. The best thing any teen could wish for is a non-prying helper who can give comfort, support and advice. Let that be you!

If all goes well, the time will come when your teen wants to bring his or her date home. Most parents - and dare I say it, mothers - want to scrutinize every aspect of their teenager's new friend. When teens start dating they are obviously nervous about meeting each other's parents and family, so try to control the critical eye and be welcoming and supportive. That way the visitor will become more relaxed, so you'll get a much clearer picture!

Never embarrass the young couple by laying down the law about dating. If you have been communicating openly, that will have been covered in private between you and your teens. Remember, your role now is to let go, but be there as a 'guardian angel' figure.

If you take an instant dislike to the newcomer, examine your feelings very carefully. What your teens look for in a relationship may be totally different from your wishes, and you may have to respect their judgment. If the other person has faults, trust that your kids will have the ability to help, or end the relationship if it's not working.

Obviously parents do not want to see an abusive or unhealthy relationship when their teens start dating, and if you see clear signs of this, then talk about it - but tactfully and supportively.

There's no denying it can be hard for parents when teens start dating, but you can relax and know that all will be well if you:

model the type of relationship you want them to have
work on clear communication.

Frank McGinty is an author and a teacher specializing in Personal & Social Development. Together with his wife, Grace, he also runs a 'Family Life' website, catering for a wide variety of family interests and concerns. For their f.ree report on 'Raising Assertive Children' visit >

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