Yikes! Your teen wants to date. Now what do you do? Kelly Olson, Division Director, Minnesota Programs and Operations, The Village Family Service Center, has a few tips for setting boundaries and keeping your teenagers safe when they are ready to start dating.
- Decide when you will let your teen start dating. Every teen is different, but some general guidelines are to encourage group dating for ages 13-14. Intense solo dating at age 13 may not be developmentally appropriate and could put your child at risk. One-on-one dating usually begins around age 15 or 16.
- Set clear expectations and let your adolescent know how often and when you expect contact. Ask them to let you know who they’ll be with, where they will be, and to call or text for permission if anything changes.
- Set a curfew, and let them know the consequences for disobeying the rules.
- Talk to your teen about rules within a relationship—how often they can have contact, how you expect them to treat a partner, and how they should expect to be treated.
- Set boundaries regarding phone privileges. For instance, phone turned into parents by 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends; and shut off your wifi at the same time.
- Talk to your teens about the risks of online dating and how easy it is for people to pretend to be someone else.
- Never prohibit relationships. Telling your adolescent they are NOT allowed to date someone will only increase their desire to do so.
- Get to know your teen’s partner. Invite them on family outings so you can monitor the relationship.
- Have conversations with your child about the relationship. Keep the lines of communication open and let them know they can talk to you about anything without judgment.
- Decide how much privacy you will give your child. Allow some privacy, but check on them if you believe they are engaging in risky behavior.
- Talk about sex. Share your values and provide information.
- Discuss potential problems and help them think of ways to handle difficult situations. How will they say “No,” how will they handle peer pressure, and what can they do if they want to get out of a risky situation?
- Manage your own emotions. It may be difficult to deal with your child becoming romantically involved or sexually active. Take a deep breath and remain calm. An overly reactive or angry response may cause your child to shut down.
- Finally, remember that dating is normal and OK. You can expect your child to get seriously interested in a dating partner. This is part of normal development and an important step in learning about relationships.
The Village Family Service Center is a multi-service agency with offices throughout North Dakota and Minnesota. The Village’s licensed professional counselors are trained to help couples, individuals, children and families dealing with a wide variety of relationship, behavior and mental health issues.
For more information or to make an appointment to see a counselor, contact The Village at 1-800-627-8220 or www.TheVillageFamily.org.