I know a lot of parents out there are cringing at the thought of their teen dating. But as parents we know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of time. “At 1 True Match, we see bad dating habits that started when clients were young and have negatively impacted every relationship they’ve ever had,” shares Relationship Coach Renee Richel, Founder of 1 True Match. But beyond just bad habits like looking at your phone too much or talking about yourself instead of asking about your date, there are dangerous and unhealthy habits out there that we want to avoid. So how early should you start teaching your children about healthy dating habits? This may shock you but as soon as they can walk and talk!
Take Your Kids on Dates
No matter the age, kids love having one on one time with their parents, it makes them feel special by having all the attention. Dads can take their daughters out for ice cream, to a movie, or to the park and moms can do the same with their sons. Parents can set the example by establishing standards that their child should exemplify and expect when out with friends or on a date. Dads can hold the door open for their daughters, ask how their day was, show good listening skills by putting all phones away, and make sure the child is the focus of attention. Moms can teach their sons how to open doors, pull out chairs, eat with good table manners and use proper etiquette. These are all great social skills for them to put into use as they age and on any occasion.
For example, 17-year-old high school student Rachel B. has been in a few brief relationships. She claims that her dad’s early traditions helped her navigate through her dates. “My dad used to take me on ice cream dates every week,” said Rachel B. “It was a small tradition that helped me set standards for how polite my dates should act towards me.” These practice dates with her dad helped her establish standards for dating behaviors and helped her avoid long-term relationships with ill-mannered boys.
Some dates cross the line between being ill-manner to being verbally or physically abusive. Teens already face challenges that can negatively impact their future relationships, such as stress, mental illness, drug use, poor body image, and more. Teens who lack healthy dating experiences are more prone to fall prey to unhealthy, or even abusive relationships. Studies show that 33% of adolescence in America are victims of sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse. Parents need to include in their conversations about healthy dating that a healthy relationship involves consent, communication, and acceptance.
Another important way parents can positively influence their child’s future relationships is to model a healthy relationship with their partner, whether they are married, divorced, or just dating. It’s not only important to display respect, love, and communication to the mother or father of your child, but to show the same level of respect to stepmothers and stepfathers, girlfriends and boyfriends, or ex-spouses. Children learn the most from the people in their households. Keeping arguments non-physical and communicated through calm and controlled voices, teaches a child to maintain calmness when in a heated situation whether it’s a date, the classroom or eventually at their workplace.
Dating Builds Relationship Skills
Let’s not forget what an emotional risk it is to go on a date no matter the age. Putting yourself out there and risking rejection is a big deal, especially when it’s a new emotion for a young person. Teach your kids that mom and dad are always here to listen if a date went bust, if it went great or if it went who knows where! Kids and teens need to be reassured that just because a boy or girl didn’t “like” them, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. Sometimes people just don’t click and even if it hurts, it will be okay.
These are all vital skills to learn early so they carry into adulthood. Feelings of rejection can occur and will occur, not just in a romantic relationship, but in a friendship or in a professional environment. Teaching young people how to have the confidence to come back from feeling bad is a huge lesson they will need throughout their lives
Set Ground Rules
A great way to get the conversation started early on is to work together as a family to establish some ground rules. The rules can also apply to how they should treat other members of the family or friends. But first parents should start by asking themselves: what are your expectations as parents, what age do you think your kids will be ready to date, do they need to start dating in groups, will you expect them to check-in at a certain time, what are the consequences if they return home late?
Then sit down with your kids and make some rules together, we love these ideas from The Dating Divas:
- Date people with similar standards and expectations
- Treat your date with respect
- Have a plan for what you will do on your date
- Parents must always meet your date
- Use the good manners you’ve practiced
- Don’t do anything to make your date uncomfortable
- Be smart and safe
- Have fun and be yourself
These suggested rules and more are in colorful and fun downloadables from The Dating Divas, they’re printable and there are even dating quizzes and dating report cards.
“No matter how uncomfortable it might be at first to talk about dating, and at some point, to even have “the talk” it is so much smarter that they learn these things now and not at college where parties and alcohol are plentiful,” insists Richel. Finally, throughout your young person’s dating process make sure they know that they always have a parent available for a shoulder to cry on or a ride home if a date doesn’t turn out as they’d hoped. If you’d like help with how to talk with your teen about dating give us a call or if you need some support finding a match for yourself we are here for you!