Nurturing My Nest Blog

Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
Intentional Homebuilding & Custom Built Education
 Based in Tennessee. Available for travel.

Talking to Your Children About Dating

Being a parent is just hard work. The stages of childhood change rapidly. Approaching the subject of dating with your child can be downright intimidating. Many parents recall their own dating history with shame or regret. Many never had a discussion with dating with their own parents. Many recall fun and memorable times dating. Regardless of personal experience, it is pertinent that conversation on the topic of dating comes early and frequently.

Before you begin, know that dating is radically different from how it was when you were a teenager and young adult. Sexual promiscuity is rampant, as it was when we were young. Sexual identity, date rape, binge drinking, emotional cheating, sexting and a host of new and more shocking behavior is the normal for today’s teens. Becoming more acquainted with today’s culture is a necessary, on-going job of today’s parents. Awareness in the area of dating and physical activity is no exception. Educate yourself though podcasts, reading and overall awareness. Listen.

Some of the information in the blog came from discussion with other parents and my dear friend, Jeanne Newberry. Her husband was our favorite youth pastor for our kids growing up. One of his best sayings in shared at the end of this blog.

Here are a few thoughts are you begin the dating discussion and establishment of guidelines in your home with your teenager:

  1. Identify the terms. (Dating means something completely different today. If I say that I “dated around,” my children immediately correct me and tell me that I communicated that I slept around. Not what I was intending to convey. I mean that I spent time with many people over ball games, lunch and regular every day activities. One of the new ideas associated with dating is “radical monogamy.” Could you define this trend?)
  2. Discuss the purpose of dating.
  3. Encourage friendships of opposite sex.
  4. Honestly and clearly discuss varieties of physical intimacy. Be prepared for questions.
  5. Know their environment. Educate yourself. Volunteer to drive for school and church and other group events. Engage with their friends and peers.
  6. Earlier is better than too late.
  7. Present positive behavior coupled with positive outcomes along with negative outcomes coupled with undesirable outcomes.
  8. Avoid troublesome environments.
  9. Be the house their friends congregate. Feed them and they will come.
  10. Dream with them. Establish goals. Steer away from impulsive decisions.

Specific guidelines might look something like the list below. Please know that each family needs to customize their own standards.

  • As parents, it is critical that you are aware of the friends and person of interest of your child. You should know their friend’s and their friend’s parents.
  • Discuss scenarios of relationships (not just dating because there is a carryover into that). This is so they can really think about responses to very real scenarios which would make it age appropriate. For instance: When a ‘friend’ asks you to send photos of yourself in different states of dress or undress? (We live in a wicked world) Or when someone asks them to spend the night, sneak out? 
  • Discuss what to do if someone want to show them porn. Porn is in many settings. Aim to continue this conversation from a young age throughout adulthood.
  • Give them an out at any time if they are in an uncomfortable situation. Your kids should call parents with no explanation and you will get them asap. Talk after they are home. Consider having a code like a word or question. I ask one of my children, “Do you need a drink?” If she says “yes”, I know there is a problem. (She does not drink alcohol.) If she says “no”, everything is fine. No one in her setting knows our code.
  • Always stay in a group. Groups may consist of two additional friends, his/her family, siblings or large groups of friends. If you need to have a private conversation, go out away from the group where they can see you, but you have privacy for a conversation.
  • Encourage your child to spend time in friendships with those of the opposite sex as well as the same sex. Understanding the differences as well as the similarities is helpful in creating clear expectations for relationships.
  • Prioritize friendship over a “dating” relationship unless marriage is a current possibility. Some people want to be in a relationship to validate that they are worthy to be choosen.
  • Keep an eye on your child’s choices and decisions to see if they demonstrate maturity and sound decisions.
  • Discuss financial relationship with a person you are dating. Is the person of interest asking your child to Venmo them money, give them gifts or always pay? Do they want your child to always drive? Basically, it the financial interaction with your child healthy? If your child is a saver, it might be best to communicate that he or she should keep their “savings” stash a secret in order to keep it safe.
  • Take turns paying for the cost of outings. Or go dutch which means each person pays their own way regarding expenses. Another friendly idea is taking turns paying. Discovering your potential mate’s attitude toward money is really important.
  • Discuss what qualities a potential life mate might need. Create a written list to discuss and review.
  • Age 16 or later for spending time in a group with a “special friend.” Considering the dangers in the current climate, it might be wise to encourage your child to never engage in one-on-one dating.
  • Always have a third person in the car. Never allow for the temptation of being alone as the conversation or activities might be tempted to become more intimate than appropriate. Being home by 11pm also adds a level of safety against temptation.
  • Invite your interested person to be around your family and friends often. Ask them what they think. They have your best interest at heart. Love for you is their only motivation. Listen. Trust their instincts more than your own.
  • Home by 11pm unless otherwise agreed. It could be truly communicated that nothing good happens after 11pm. Help them to be aware of the dangerous idea of the idea of “Hey! Let’s just drive around all night and see what’s happening!”
  • What are the limits of phone use? (I would not allow a teen to have their phone during the night.) 
  • Gentlemen must come to the door to pick you up at your home. No beeping from the car. This often gives an opportunity for the young man to meet dad, mom and other family members.
  • Explore what to post or what not to post…what’s appropriate?
  • Determine a list of qualities that are important when thinking about selecting a lifetime partner. Let this be an on going conversation as you meet married couples and see anything you might copy from their healthy relationship. Keep adding and subtracting to this list as maturity adjusts the understanding.

Consider enjoying the company of interested parties, but not committing to one person at a time. This is the route I took. I thought it worked well. I did not want to break up with someone and get hurt. So, I did not date steady. I spent time with different fellows that I considered. This meant I never broke up and I was never broken up with. This might seem extreme, but it did protect my heart. Strangely, five young men sincerely invited me to marry them. My husband Tim asked me to marry him four weeks after our first date. I said yes. I was ready to commit to one person and I chose him.

Continue to unpack the reality and expectations of dating in your teen’s world. Consider how your daughter feels about dating versus how your son feels. Perhaps your daughter would connect with this quote from Dr. Seuss. “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” Sons are entirely more pragmatic about the “reality” of spending time with a girl. It goes without explanation that boys think about girls totally differently. The lifetime journey of understanding the difference between men and women should begin with discussions at home.

Develop an ongoing conversation with your child leading to a wise, Biblical path to developing self-control, freedom, and intimacy in dating relationships.

Enjoy this strange and wonderful season of navigating dating with your child.

Stay aware. Stay engaged. Stay relatable.

“Don’t isolate them, but insulate them.” – Phil Newberry, Youth Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church

Join the conversation on this topic on Embrace Your Everyday podcast.


How to Make Friends and Keep Them

Birth Order

Hospitality Habits

20 Social Skills to Improve Sociability

Spiritual Habit of a High Schooler by a High Schooler

comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


* indicates required