How to Navigate the World of Teenage Dating
If your instinct to the idea of your teenager dating is to forbid it and pretend that they’re going to be young forever, you’re not alone. Most parents want to protect their children as much as they can, and aren’t ready for the idea of their babies getting into relationships. Especially when it comes to middle school and high school, there is so much uncertainty and your kids are still, well, kids.
Resurrection Christian School provided some relationship advice for high schoolers in our last blog, but today we’re here to assuage the fears of parents. Take a look at some of our tips on how to cope with and help your child as they begin dating, and look into elementary, middle, or high school enrollment with our Christian school in Loveland today!
Face the Facts
There’s such a weird, strange, double-edged sword when it comes to parenting. On one hand, you want your child to be a child forever. On the other, you want to watch them grow up and experience the best parts of life — so many of which come with simply letting go and growing up.
The goal should always be to raise a child who is truly happy and confident in themselves, and who doesn’t need a partner to rely on for their sense of self-worth, identity, and happiness as a whole. But a positive, loving, and meaningful relationship can be one of the best experiences for us adults. It’s natural to want the same for our kids.
Your child is likely going to want to experience physical and emotional intimacy with someone. They’re going to want to date. Even just acknowledging this is the first step in becoming a supportive parent in the dating world.
Have an Open Dialogue
Chances are, if you give the classic “No dating until you’re married!” one-liner, your child is going to date a lot sooner than that. Also, that one-liner is impossible (or at least, it should be). Our Christian school recommends having an open dialogue before setting your expectations. This way, you’ll know where your child is at, what they feel is important, their level of maturity, and their overall view on relationships. This gives an amazing opportunity to converse and connect with your high schooler, an opportunity which can sometimes be a bit rare.
Think about where you were at as a high schooler, and be open and honest with your child! Let them know if there were mistakes you made (if it makes sense to share them) or what you wish you did differently. Did you agree with what your parents did or said? What worked, and what didn’t? Use your experiences as a talking point, and find out where your high schooler stands on love, sex, and relationships as a whole.
Talk About Consent
Another hugely important aspect of relationships is talking about consent. Every single child should know what it means to give their consent, and what it means if they are denied consent, and how to appropriately respond. Far too often, there are incidences of consent not being respected, and this can result in hurt feelings at best and assault at worst. These conversations are tough, but necessary, to have, and should be an ongoing topic that your family revisits.
Talk About All Relationships
Relationship talks nearly always are conducted in a heteronormative way. Keep in mind that not every child is going to be in a heterosexual relationship, or might not be happy in one. You can always talk about your family’s beliefs, and this might be a discussion that your family approaches in a different way (or not at all), but it might open up lines of communication with your child if they know that they’re welcome and normal, regardless of their sexual preferences. The last thing you want is for your child to feel isolated because they feel like they have no one to talk to.
Before going into having an open conversation with your child, you should likely have some expectations in mind. Here are some common ones that work well for many families:
- Always ask permission. Let your child know that if they want to go hang out with their significant other, they need to run it by you first (just as is true for hanging out with their friends, or going anywhere).
- Keep the door open. If spending one-on-one time together, it should be in a public setting. Talk with your child about God’s intentions for loving relationships, and how they can live by His example.
- Set boundaries. If your child is glued to their phone when they’re away from their significant other, talk about the importance of being present when with family, and how their relationship should not be the center of their universe.
- Set an age limit. If you think 13 or 14 is too young to start going on dates, let your child know, as well as your reasons why.
- Be flexible. These are some guidelines and basic expectations, but remind your child that you, as the parent, have the right to revisit and revise these expectations as the situation calls for it.
Set the Example
Before we dive into this, our Christian school would like to remind you that you as a parent do not need to be in a relationship to set a good example. Sometimes not being in a relationship and setting a positive example as a single parent can be even more beneficial than a married couple who fight constantly.
With that being said, your child has seen your relationship as the basis of their understanding for relationships. If you want your child to treat others with respect and to be treated with respect, you should be living this out. If you want your child to see what it’s like to be taken out on a date, your partner and you should go out on dates regularly. If you want to see what affection and acts of service look like in a relationship, both you and your spouse need to show that towards each other.
Kids are like glass — everything that touches their lives leaves an imprint. One of the best ways you can navigate relationships in high school is by being in the very relationship that you want your child to have.
If you are like the aforementioned couple who’s fighting more than you’d like to, think about what you would recommend if your child were in the same situation. Consider seeking out counseling, reaffirm your spirituality, and how you can get your relationship to a place that’s healthy and thriving.
If your child is not currently dating and seems to be a way’s off, don’t pressure them! They likely already feel the pressure from seeing their peers in relationships, and getting pressure from their parents is only going to make them feel worse.
The truth is, most high schoolers aren’t ready for a real relationship. They have so much growing up to do. High schoolers aren’t wrong for wanting to date, but they’re also not wrong for not dating anyone (or not having any interest).
Enroll Your Teen With RCS
At our Christian school, your child will have a beautiful community and foundation to keep them on the right track — academically, mentally, and spiritually. Dating is an important part of life, but it’s not the only part. RCS is the perfect place for your child to thrive, and for you to feel confident about their growth. Look into enrollment options with RCS today!