How young is too young? Does it seem like your teen is in such a rush to grow up and experience dating? Is going out the same as dating? Here are some guidelines to follow:
Encourage your teens to have friendships with boys and girls. The teen years are about learning to get along with both genders. It’s about feeling confident in who you are and in starting to know what you like and don’t like. It is impossible to pick a cute guy, or have a cute guy pick you and just be a perfect match. They should start to see how different families believe and do different things. They should start to see that people are all very different with different values and beliefs. This helps your teen start to figure out their own values and beliefs. As your teen gets older they can start to see beyond cute and dive more in depth into understanding who another person is and how that person can compliment themselves. When they can say no to someone of the opposite gender who is not a good match and when they can start to see beyond looks or coolness factor and see a person’s personality and values, then they may be ready to start dating. A 14 year old is not sure of who they are yet. Give them a chance to develop their own personality. Give them a chance to define their own values and beliefs. Give them time to build confidence in who they are and what they stand for. Growing up is hard enough. Don’t allow your teens to have to grow up while dating someone else who is still growing up!
Our parents wouldn’t let us close the bedroom door when a boyfriend was over. But why not extend that rule to the whole family? No guests allowed in bedrooms. If you can’t adopt that rule, then definitely no closed bedroom doors when you have a guest. Period. And why just opposite gender friends? This should be a non-negotiable rule. Bedrooms are for sleeping. Bedrooms are private, personal space. They should be a place to reflect on your day, plan for the next day a place to sleep and a place to slow down the crazy pace we set for ourselves these days. It is more about respecting private space. Hopefully that translates to your teen respecting his or her private space of her body too.
Talk with your teen. And keep talking to your teen. The more conversations you have, and the more open you are during those conversations, the more likely it will be that you know what is happening in their lives, that they will come to you with concerns or problems and the more likely that you can influence their decisions about dating and respecting themselves. If they are respected by you, they respect themselves, they will expect others to respect them too.
If you are harsh, disrespectful and not willing to talk about the rules and the reasons for the rules, you can expect rebellion. But rebellion is not a rite of passage through the teen years. It does not have to happen. They need to understand the rules. They need to understand the values and beliefs behind the rules. They don’t have to like the rules but they need to know that the rules come from a place of wanting your teen to be safe. Keep talking, not commanding.
Set the bar extraordinarily high for who is good enough to date. Expect them to date someone worthy of your amazing teen! Tell them this often. If you let them know it is OK to be without a date, to wait for a good one, to expect the best out of others, they will too. Set the tone of not being in a rush. Don’t get swept up into the idea and excitement of dating yourself. Encourage groups of friends. They will know that is OK. Often society, media and parents put pressure on teens to date. Give them permission not to date. Give them permission to wait. Expect them to make good choices about who to date.