Taking the Terror Out of Teen Dating

Must-Have Dating Conversations with Your Young Adults

Here’s a pit-in-your-stomach thought:  Your 15-year-old “little girl” just asked if she can start dating. Out. Alone. With someone she’s attracted to. Yikes!

What happened? Where did all that time go? The truth is, we blink, and they grow up, and now more than ever having real-world, real-life conversations about dating has to move to the top of the parenting to-do list.

This is important stuff!  But how do you get her to listen without her discounting your words or rolling her eyes?

Your instincts are spot on. To help your children successfully navigate their hormone-driven years, the best place to start is opening the lines of communication in a REAL no-judgement zone.

Here’s how: Ditch the birds and bees – for now anyway.

Instead of automatically launching into a lecture about teen pregnancy, have a conversation with your child about the purpose of dating and her expectations.

What kind of person does she want to date?

What would a perfect date entail?

Asking these questions will not only help you know your child better but will help her find out more about herself.

After the conversation, let your teen know that you enjoyed the talk and that you hope she will feel comfortable coming to you with any future questions. Then, “check in” regularly so that talking openly about dating and romance doesn’t become taboo.

Make it a date—not a free-for-all.

Teen dating is not what it used to be. Rather than dinner, a movie, and home by 10, many kids simply “hang out,” which basically means your child might end up bowling or listening to music in a dark room with no parents in sight.

This lack of structure can be precarious for hormone-charged kids, so remove these opportunities for trouble by discussing dates in advance.

Ask, “What are you two planning to do?”

If your teen is unsure, talk about creating a plan – including a location, an end time, and reasonable supervision. Yes, your teen will protest. But, a plan is needed if she or he is going to be allowed the privilege of dating, so you must insist.

Once the date is planned, play, “What would you do?” to help him figure out ahead of time how he will respond to various scenarios.

What would he do, for instance, if his date lied about her parents being home and now they had the house to themselves?

Suggest words and actions if he seems stumped. By thinking about his responses in advance, he will be better equipped in the moment to let his brain, rather than his hormones, make decisions.

Talk about boundaries. It’s a delicate conversation, but talking about comfort levels, boundaries, and consequences is all part of this time in their lives.  You can help them head into that world with the best possible information, as well as an understanding that they get to set boundaries for their bodies.

Sadly, we hear almost daily reports of #MeToo stories in which brave women and men are speaking out about abuses and inappropriate contact. Use one of these stories as a doorway to a conversation about your child’s rights, their personal boundaries, and what to do if they feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable.

Give your kids a way out of a difficult or uncomfortable situation.

You may be familiar with a post that went viral last year from a father who created an X-Plan for his children. If they ever felt they were in a compromised, uncomfortable, or dangerous situation, they could simply text “X” to a family member. The family member would then text back with an urgent message stating the child needed to be home asap and that someone would be on the way.

The X-Plan provides kids a graceful “out” so they can save face socially and gives everyone peace of mind knowing safeguards are in place. We created a parenting guide to having an X-Plan for your child.

Make sure your child knows that any and all conversations with you are done in a safe-space. They can trust that you will always, ALWAYS have his or her back.

You begin a new chapter with your child during this part of their teen years. Leave the lectures of our parents and grandparents in the past and leave the judgement and fear at the door.

If you want your child to trust you and be open with you about love and sex and hormones and decision-making, they have to know you love them unconditionally and that you’re there to help them sort out the answers. Be kind. Be open. Be proactive. These are the best ways you can help your teen make the best decisions for the present and the future.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.