How to Talk to Your Teen about Dating Rules
Develop your family’s set of rules for dating by walking through a first date situation with your teen. Work with them to create a list of rules together. They will be more likely to follow rules they help create.
Try Out Different Scripts
Ask your teen to think about what they’d say in different dating situations. Preparing a script makes things easier, whether your teen is doing the asking, agreeing to a date, or refusing a date. Tell them to take a deep breath, be kind, be specific about what they want to do on the date, and be prepared for both acceptance and rejection. Teach them how to accept either graciously.
If someone asks your teen out, ask what their gut says when they think of this person. Remind them to be polite and friendly, and think about how vulnerable the asker is feeling. Talk about the importance of saying “no thanks” so your teen doesn’t perpetuate false hopes.
Brainstorm How to Behave on a Date
Discuss with your teen that being on a date is a lot like forming a friendship, so many of the same rules apply.
- Clarify logistics – tell your date and your parents: who you’ll be with, when and how you’ll get home, who is paying.
- Dress appropriately – clothes can say a lot.
- Be yourself: girls, eat something, don’t talk about how fat you are, and don’t pretend to like something if you don’t.
- Be considerate: don’t answer your phone unless it’s important (your best friend doesn’t count), no texting. Compliment them, ask them about themselves, and listen to them. If you’re bored, stay around for the whole date just to be sure. Guys, sexy clothes doesn’t mean she wants to have sex.
- Figure out how you want to say goodnight before you go.
- Send a thank you.
- Have an exit strategy: if your date texts or ignores you, consider ending the date early. If your date steals, does drugs, changes plans, asks for sex, make up an excuse and leave.
- Be tech savvy: texts aren’t private and three texts with no answer means focus on someone else.
Should Your Teen Be Physical on a Date?
Assuming you’ve told your teen about sex, the next step is to help them be a good date. Talk with them about how sometimes the opportunity presents itself to hold hands or have your arm around your date, but most of the time you probably won’t be sure if it’s okay. Tell them about reading body signals and respecting their date’s boundaries, to go slowly and they will figure it out. Intimacy is something learned through observation and experience. Before a date, brainstorm with your teen about what to say if something makes them uncomfortable. You want your teen to feel confident and safe.
Ask your teen if their date was respectful, seemed interested, and shared common goals. Did your teen feel comfortable? Only your teen will know if they feel comfortable around this person. Tell your teen to trust their intuition. Together you can set up dating rules – and your teen can be ready because they’ll have their own rules for what it takes to date them.
This is a parents’ version excerpt of my book for teens! Dating Smarts: What Every Teen Needs to Date, Relate, or Wait!