It will happen and you knew it all along…. your baby has now grown up and falling in and out of crushes and then into that so-very-special first love.
Of course, as parents, it’s normal to feel this whole tween or teen romance things is moving too quickly for your liking, but there’s no real way of slowing down the clock is there? They grow, hormones rage and then they pair up with someone romantically…. and suddenly you’ve woken one day to realise your child is not very childlike anymore.
The signs will be there if they aren’t already. The physical changes of puberty, the raging hormones which drive all sorts of unpredictable moods, blossoming romantic feelings, and more.
In the blink of an eye, your teen will then look to step into the dating world. A world of hope, promise, infatuation… and sometimes, sadly, heartbreak.
It’s a little bit frightening to think about if you’re the parent a younger teen who’s on the cusp of dating and just not quite at that stage yet, right?
In fact, most parents have genuine fears and worries when their child starts dating. Them dating also reminds us of our own early romance/s which means mixed feelings can resurface… for us! Dating is one of the biggest signs they are growing up, entering a new phase of their lives by sharing their love and affection with someone other than us!
I know. I know…
You’ve been there, I’ve been there too and their teenagehood takes on yet another dimension making it one of the most confusing, exciting, and fun parts of our lives as well!
When it comes to romance and dating, teens don’t always make smart decisions. (Face it, we’ve all probably made some unwise choices in this department #justsaying) The decision-making area of their brain is still developing…. But possibly not quite as quickly as the hormonally driven bits!
The issue then becomes that there may be some regrettable decisions (made in the moment) which could have a life-changing and forever impact. That’s why it is important to remember that they still really need lots of guidance now…. even if they roll their eyes and groan about you prying “too much” (Trust me – they will!)
Will their jettison into the world of dating be a nightmare? Possibly…. But trust it won’t be a nightmare forever.
As the parent, you still set the expectation and the ones around dating will be important. There are tons of things you can do to make dating easier for them, and less stressful for you, and that starts with setting the right boundaries when parenting a teen who’s dating.
Talk About Good Relationships
You may think your teen will innately know how to date… believe me, they’ll think they know it all already, but truth is, they still need lots of guidance from you when it comes to healthy relationships.
Social media will have undoubtedly shown your teen many, many images of relationship goals, memes, quotes and sayings which may have set them up with an unrealistic picture of what it means to be in a relationship. Let alone the growing concern around easily accessible and often watched online porn which leads many teens to have a very distorted view on intimate relationships. (A whole blog post of its own!)
On social media, people usually share their best, the good times… rarely the reality and this can make dating and relationships seem far too ideal. And so this is why you need to do the talking… and teaching about what makes a good, healthy and respectful relationship.
You could consider raising and talking about the following topics:
- What it was like for you to go on a first date?
- How they can tell whether someone is really suitable for them ie the qualities they are looking for in a dating partner.
- What it’s like to be in a relationship?
- Why realistic relationships aren’t all sunshine and lollipops?
- Knowing how to say no to any situation that’s uncomfortable for them.
Try to be their main source of influence. It’s certainly better than having them learn this stuff from the kids at school or social media.
Show and Ask For Mutual Respect
Here’s a bit of a complicated part, and something many parents struggle with as it signals the shifting of your relationship. Showing that you respect them growing into adulthood is important as is insisting they return the respect to you at all times.
Let them see you are trusting enough to respect their privacy…. as long as they will promise to show genuine honesty. You don’t need to know every detail about their romantic relationship (ewwwww please) BUT you do need to know they are safe and protected (physically and emotionally) and have them commit to being willing to openly and honestly discuss their relationship should you have genuine concerns.
Remember: Respect is one of the most important building blocks of ANY RELATIONSHIP. Respect is a pattern of behaviour that is found in all healthy relationships. It’s a crucial element and begins with self-respect, something overlooked by many young people looking for love. You have to give respect in order to get it, and it is something everyone deserves so remind them of it often.
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Meet and Greet Their Date
Though your teen will call this out as “awkward” you really should make time to meet and greet their date. And if the relationship blossoms and the dating is ongoing, then getting to know this new, important person in your teen’s life is very important.
It’s great if you can establish a simple routine where they leave to go on a date from your place so they know you’re there and available. A simple safety reminder and conversation about where they are going, curfew times, and driving rules etc should be enough to let your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend know you’ve got this!
Encourage Boundaries and Limits
Your teen may feel head over heels in love or completely smitten with their first romantic interest but this runs the risk of them being very vulnerable to potential hurt and heartbreak. And if you’ve not experienced their first heartbreak yet, let me tell you it hits mum just as hard!
Now, after taking a deep breath and accepting your teen might be developing deep romantic feelings, there should be another ‘talk’ and this is about explaining the difference between infatuation, lust, and love.
Their insides are probably all jelly-like and their heads in the cloud, so you’ll need to help them understand that infatuation may give them goosebumps, skipped heartbeats, a can’t sleep feeling and other new feelings they’ll discover but that real and genuine “LOVE” takes time to grow.
Help Them See Their Worth
Of course, last but not the least! Parenting your teen also involves helping them see their worth and teaching them that they deserve to be treated with utmost respect – always – by a romantic partner.
Should heartbreak strike – brace yourself (step 1) and then be prepared to maybe find your teen hiding away, avoiding their meals, crying themselves to sleep, taking too much time in the shower and more depressive-like behaviours when they feel heartbroken or disrespected by the person they’d given their love to.
Helping them see their worth before they start dating and during hard times like this will hopefully help them have a quick recovery and of course BE WISER next time!
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And, there you have it! Just some simple advice to help you set boundaries when parenting a teen whos’ dating.
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