Setting Boundaries Around Dating That Work For Parent And Teen Alike
Many stages of your teen’s life feel fraught with peril (in the eyes of parents at least), but few trumps the anxiety at the thought of releasing them into the dating world. This seems like the big one: a gradual but definite initiation into the adult world.
And while making it seem too monumental is probably a bad idea, dating is one of the early arenas where an adolescent’s development, might be truly tested. Self-respect, maturity, and prudence will all be needed here, for teens and parents alike.
Your house, your rules
This is the cliché of clichés when it comes to parenting, but here it does apply, and you don’t have to make any apologies for it. Every household is different, and the rules that preside therein are different, just as each teenager is different. There is no set age where teens should start to date; it might be 15 for one, 14 for another, 17 for some others. Likewise, there is no perfect time for curfew: you may have heard that some kids can stay out until 11 p.m., but you wish it could be 10:30. In your house, curfew can be 10:30.
Dating may be an important rite of passage, but it’s also a privilege: only allow what you’re comfortable allowing. You are obliged to do no more than that.
Time for a heart to heart- the sex talk
This is nobody’s favorite experience, not yours, and it most certainly will not be your teen’s. But now is the time to revisit, or perhaps visit for the first time, the sex talk. Sex is far from a given in dating life for teens (despite what our worst fears may tell us), but it is a possibility and should be discussed. Begin by acknowledging that no matter what- it is her choice. Talk about how she deserves to feel safe and comfortable in any and every situation. Do not shy away from discussing safe sex practices, STDs, and teen pregnancy. Equally important, talk about the risk of inappropriate online activities and social media that is already intertwined into their worlds and may become more complicated with a “significant other”. A big part of the maturation process is understanding while there are healthy and positive experiences, there are also risks in life; talking about these topics now can assist her in navigating the waters and open up lines of communication between you and your teen.
Live and in-person is a fair ask
Who is this other kid? While it’s nice to hear from your teen all the good qualities of him/her, there’s no test like the eye test. So harkening back to dating rules specific to each home, don’t be shy about asking to meet this semi-significant other. And while your kid may not like it, don’t be bashful about engaging this young person in conversation. Ask questions, get a sense of who they are. And, if a relationship develops between the two of them, keep up the check-ins, continuing to get to know this new boyfriend/girlfriend. You’re still the parent and the decision-maker, and your teen still isn’t (quite) an adult.
The caveat here is — try not to overdo it. Under the guise of concern and diligence, it can be very easy to tip into being overbearing and controlling. As long as your teen has shown herself capable of making prudent choices on her own, to one degree or another, you will have to challenge yourself to let go and trust her somewhat and give her some agency in her own dating life. So long as you’ve set some hard and fast parameters, you shouldn’t have to micromanage.