I know I’m going to sound like my mother when I say this, but…dating certainly has changed from when I was a teenager.
If your teenager is seeing someone you don’t approve of, do you stop them from dating that person? Do you step back and let them figure it out on their own, or do you engage with them and talk about making wise choices?
Before I begin to try and answer these questions, please note this:
In this article, I hope to help you understand teen dating. I’ll ask you to ask yourself why you don’t approve of your teen’s choice of significant other. I’ll also offer some teenage dating advice for parents and provide you with some conversation starters to begin engaging with your teen.
Understanding today’s teenage dating scene
Reality TV has changed how teens date. The more sex appeal you have, the better off you are. The lifestyles include excessive parties and extreme materialism. Aggressive behaviors and bullying are common, and this can be especially damaging for girls. These behaviors teach girls that to win, they have to be divisive and constantly competing with each other.
My suggestion is to watch a couple of the shows with your teenager. Talk about what is real and what is just put there for the show. Ask your teen what they think about the content they’re watching and if it’s affecting their self-image and values. Help your teen develop critical responses to what they’re viewing to know what they should expect from “real” relationships.
Mobile apps have increased the size of the teen dating pool, and they are available 24/7. Teens today can be dating someone in another state or country. They know what their significant other is doing every hour of the day, and many teenagers communicate with each other throughout the day and night.
While you can make the choice to limit what apps your teenager uses and their screen time, communication is your best ally. Talk with your teen about how important downtime is and how they still need to spend time with their family and other friends.
Parents used to be involved in teen dating. Meeting the other person gave them a bold voice in who their teenager was allowed to date. Many parents now only find out about their teenager dating if they see it on social media or hear about it from another parent.
Make an effort to spend time with your teen’s friends. Without being intrusive, get to know them and give them a safe space to hang out. This will show your teenager that you are open to their world and want to provide an environment where they and their friends can be comfortable, including when it comes to their choice of significant other.
Time for self-reflection
Ask yourself why you don’t like the person your teen has chosen to date. Do you have personal biases towards a certain race, gender, or religion? Could it even be the socioeconomic status of the teen’s family?
Understanding your reasons for disapproving of this person can really help you begin to talk with your teen. Remember, if you try to force your opinions on your teen, it will probably backfire on you, and your child could find the object of their affection even more attractive. Think Romeo and Juliet here because Shakespeare was on to something.
So, should you stop your teen from dating this person?
As a mom who was fiercely protective of her daughters, it’s hard for me to say this, but here goes: no, you should not stop your teen from dating a person you don’t approve of.
This will only serve to alienate you from your teenager. It will also push them to find ways to do what they want behind your back, possibly putting themselves in harm’s way as a result.
Should you use this as a parenting opportunity?
Yes, you should definitely use this situation as an opportunity to parent well. Spend as much time with your teen as you can. Be present in their world and engage in frequent conversations with them about the hard things, like dating.
Despite some obvious differences, the dating advice for a teenage girl and dating rules for a teenage son are basically the same.
- Be respectful of the other person.
- Speak respectfully about each other to your friends.
- Keep things in perspective—you’re still young, so take things slow.
- Date for the right reasons—don’t do it just because everyone else does.
- Remember your other friends.
- Respect your future.
- For girls: be yourself; set boundaries; keep out of drama; don’t compromise; realize you will have a broken heart along the way; know who you are and that you deserve respect.
- For guys: “Manners maketh the man”; help her feel safe; show maturity; be willing to talk about problems; don’t give into peer pressure; don’t cheat; plan creative dates.
So, what’s next?
The key is communication. Talk with your teen, using open-ended questions to encourage them to be real with you. Also, don’t wait until the subject of dating someone you don’t like comes up. This kind of communication should be done in all areas of a teen’s life so they know you’re genuinely invested in their overall life success.
Trust your teen. You have raised your teenager, so give yourself some credit for instilling in them values and teaching them right from wrong. Even if your teen can feel your disapproval, they still need to be allowed to make their own choices and mistakes.
You are ultimately responsible for the welfare of your teenager, even though they’re becoming more independent and making their own decisions. You still need to be in the know about their activities, their friends, and their choices. Be present in their everyday life and show them that you want to help guide them to making the best decisions, especially when it comes to who they choose to spend their time with.
Some tips and conversation starters
It’s definitely not an easy task to accept someone we don’t approve of, especially if they’re dating your teenager. Still, there are some things you can do to help yourself and your teen.
- Ask open-ended questions:
- How did you meet your significant other?
- What do you 2 like to do together?
- What good qualities do you see in this person?
- Give an invitation to dinner or an activity like carpet golf where you can interact.
- Find some positive traits in your teen’s dating choice.
- Setting boundaries for teen dating is important to let them know what is acceptable to you in their dating relationships.
- Give your teenager some space. Trust that they will know what they want and don’t want and that they’re learning things about themselves while in this relationship.
- Have “the talk.” Be open and honest with them about consent, honoring the choices and feelings of others, and, above all, recognizing their self-worth.
While you’re giving your teen freedom and trust, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open, including using those parental “Spidey” senses. If there’s any hint of abuse or violence, you need to take complete control of the situation. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to both teens and parents to talk and chat online, day or night.
Your teen wanting to date is perfectly normal, and the person you would pick for them may not be who they want. When this happens, you need to have expectations established, along with an open and caring environment for your teen to talk.
Relationships during these years help teenagers develop healthy relationship skills for adulthood. Dating helps them become resilient, especially after a break-up. You may not like or approve of the person your teen has chosen to date, but give them space to make their own mistakes and trust that you have given them wisdom. We did the same at their age, and I believe we can say we learned a lot from our experiences. Let your teen be able to do the same.