Your teenager has expressed an interest in dating, but when should you let that first date take place? Rather than going solely by your child’s chronological age, you should consider a variety of other factors related to your level of communication and your child’s level of maturity. You can help prepare your teen for his or her first date – and those that will follow – by following these steps.
Step One: Assess how your teenager feels about him or herself.
Douglas Green recommends stepping back, taking a good look at your kid, and considering your teen’s sense of self-worth. Does he or she have good boundaries and a strong moral code? Does your child respect other people? Does your child seem to feel good about his or her accomplishments? Does your child have goals and ambitions outside of dating, such as educational or athletic goals? If you aren’t sure or you feel the answer is no, work on this with your teenager before letting him or her go out on that first date. You want your child to be proud and confident before dealing with the complexities a dating relationship can bring.
Step Two: Establish an open line of communication.
Gary A. Dordick says talking with your child about relationships is important. Ask questions about their friends and discuss healthy versus non-healthy relationships with your teenager. If you do not have an open line of communication, spend time making one. You will want to be able to talk to your teenager about potential problems with relationships that they might encounter. You also want your child to know you are there should problems arise during dating.
Step Three: Create dating rules.
You don’t have to set a lot of dating rules, says Green, but you want to know that the ones you set will be followed. Let your child know that you expect them home at a certain time. If there are certain things that you won’t tolerate – for instance, parties that involve drinking alcohol – tell them upfront. And also let your child know that you are available at any time during the date if they need to call for a ride or for any other reason.
Step Four: Make sure your child is prepared for the unexpected.
As a parent you want to think the date will go off without a hitch, but that’s not always the case. To protect your child, send along extra money in case your teen needs to call for a ride home. Supply your child with a cell phone as well, in case he or she is not in a spot with a public phone. Talk to your teen about dating and violence. Brian Pinero says safety planning is looking at everything that could possibly happen and then preparing for that in advance. This might include discussing with your teen what should be done if the date ends up at a party with drinking. It might also include what should be done if the person your teen is dating becomes violent. If you need assistance with this, Pinero recommends discussing potential safety plans with peer advocates, which might also involve role-playing certain situations.
While chronological age makes a difference in some aspects when it comes to dating, you also want to ensure your child is emotionally ready to take the plunge into the relationship world. Ensuring your child can communicate with you and setting up plans for safety are key steps in preparing your teenager for his or her first date.