Dating Smarts for Parents – How to Handle Dating Issues with Your Teen
Helping your teen be a healthy dater
There are some situations your teen needs to be prepared to deal with in their dating life, such as how to escape a bad date, deal breakers, pressure, trusting their intuition, dating friends, and dating and sex.
Escape Plan 101
When on a date or out with friends, your teen may find themselves in a situation which is uncomfortable and they need to get out of it. It’s smart to help your teen have an escape plan so they can get away without looking stupid. Your teen can call you or another trusted adult to check in (he can say his parents will “kill him” if he doesn’t), then he can say something that signals he’d like help. At this signal, you know you need to go get him immediately. Talk with your teen about how they’d handle example situations such as being pressured sexually, doing something illegal, hanging out with older people or people they don’t know.
Talk with your teen about similar situations in the context of a relationship. Explain that a “deal breaker” is something—a behavior, comment, or value—your teen absolutely cannot tolerate and violates his or her trust in someone. Ask your teen what they would do if their boyfriend or girlfriend was disrespectful, taking drugs, driving unsafely, or didn’t share their values.
Pressure can come from asking someone out for the first time to having sex. Your teen can feel pressured by their friends, their boy or girlfriend, or themselves. Tell your teen that the only kind of pressure they should feel is to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and STI/HIV. Your teen should know that it’s really important for them to be strong and wholeheartedly committed to their values because the decision to become sexually active carries physical and emotional consequences.
Intuition Is Your Friend
Your teen’s intuition is tied to their “fight or flight response,” and provides them with a similar set of sensations, but on a smaller scale. Their “gut instinct” or “gut feeling” is one of their best tools for dating and romance. Intuition isn’t always perfect, but it’s accurate nearly all of the time. Tell your teen that at times it’s tempting to dismiss their intuition because their date is cute, but they should proceed with caution anyway so they don’t get themselves into a situation that’s hard to get out of.
At some point your teen may find themselves considering dating a friend. Discuss with your teen reasons why this can be a good idea (they already know and like them), but they need to be sure it’s clear that it’s a date, and to tread carefully. They can lose the friend, or be misled, so ask them not to do anything that seems romantic if they don’t mean it.
Sex and Dating
The bottom line is nearly everyone eventually has sex. Make sure your teen knows that they should feel comfortable talking about anything and everything with their partner. If they’re too embarrassed to talk about and use birth control, they should wait. Your teen should be prepared to protect themselves when they decide to have sex—ideally with the right person at the right time.