Recently, my husband and I spoke at a conference for parents of teens. Being a parent is no easy mission. Parenting is hard—the hardest job I’ve ever done. And when you have a teenager, it’s like parenting on steroids. At this conference, we asked the parents to write out questions they had. One common question was about dating—when to allow dating, one-on-one dating, and group dating. It was difficult to fully address this topic with the time restraints we had, and today I want to dive into this more fully.
So, here we go…
At what age did you allow your children to date? At what age do you recommend one-on-one dating? At what age do you recommend group dating?
God created us with the desire for connectedness. We are not meant to do life alone. Why can’t our kids be happy with waiting to date until they are twenty-five, when their brains are more “adult” like? Why? Oh, how much easier life would be! But the reality is our kids notice the opposite sex usually before we are ready to deal with it as parents. Attraction starts pretty young, and that train is leaving the station, we best get on board.
Our kids will have normal, and God given, desires for “romantic love.” It’s imperative that we help navigate these feelings and talk with them about what’s happening in their lives.
And that’s my first point.
We can never shame our child for the way their body works or for the attractions they feel. As soon as you leave the impression that “there is something wrong or unnatural about the way they are feeling,” that’s when communication will shut down.
Do you really want your child to get dating advice from other teenagers? Keep lines of communication open with your teenager. Let them know you’re on their side and want to keep them safe—safe physically and emotionally.
A high percentage of the time, dating means heartbreak. Oh yes, there are those few—very few—cases where people marry their teen heart throb, but it’s extremely rare. Like I said at another conference, “Either you will break up or get married.” Allowing our kids to “date” means preparing them for heart ache.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
Look for opportunities to talk with your teenager and be present.Talk with your teenager and look for opportunities to be present. Click To Tweet
Listening to understand the world they are navigating today is crucial. The landmines our kids are dodging are vastly different than the ones we did as kids. Yes, we were all teenagers at one time, but the world we were in compared to the one our kids navigate, are worlds apart. Letting them know you understand this will open a line of communication.
Listen, listen, listen.
Listen to what your teen is saying to you. A rule maker that doesn’t have time for you, and doesn’t listen to you, can feel like a tyrant who doesn’t care. If they perceive that you don’t care, they are much less likely to follow your rules. Think about it, how many hours a day does your child make decisions while they are away from you? Ultimately, we want them to “own” the rules and guidelines we have laid out for them. Time spent together, and talks where they feel understood will bridge the gap of rebellion and perceived apathy.
As far as an appropriate age for dating…my husband and I never gave our kids an age. We handled each of our kids differently, and dealt with each incident as they came up.
Relationships with boys and girls, hormones, and sex were common discussion topics when our kids were teenagers. No topic was off limits. We wanted them talking to us as much as possible. We didn’t freak-out when we heard stuff. Now, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t times where I wanted to, trust me, inside I may have been screaming but outside I was chill. And then, I took it to God. “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17). That was a theme verse through the dating years.
After spending time with God, I would go back to my teen with concerns or further discussion. I mean, let’s face it, when they are old enough to open a window they can also climb out that same window—we can’t control our kids.
We encouraged friendships, and told our kids that the best relationships are those where couples are best friends.
Our job is to guide—guide with love and wisdom. If they don’t feel like we are “stopping them from having fun” but only want to guide out of love and concern, they are way more apt to willingly comply to our “rules.” For us, with regard to them going out with friends or “dating,” we needed to know who they were going to be with, what time they’d be home, how they would get where they were going, where they would be, what they would be doing, and how we could contact them. We also needed to meet the people they would be spending time with, especially if it was a “date” situation.
We never gave them a curfew.
We all—all, as in, all three of us, me, my husband and said child—discussed what they would be doing, and when they would be home. Oftentimes, we would be their driver. Which I highly recommend because you get to spend time with their friends.
My daughter, who’s now married with a child of her own, recently told me that she often didn’t go out because it was easier to stay home than answering all of our questions. Which is perfectly fine with me, this was a way we protected her from all the “stuff” she could have gotten into. She’s happily married today, and I am exceedingly proud of the wife and mom she is.
Bottom dating line, there was not an age where we prevented them from spending time with the opposite sex. We didn’t always call it “dating,” we called it spending time with whomever. And it was never off limits. However, if a request came in like, we are going to go to Justin’s house and get in his parent’s hot tub while his parents are at a Dodger game. The response would have been, “I just bought a new swim suit, I can’t wait to jump in with you, I love hot tubs! Oh, and I checked with Dad and he wants to come along, too. This will be fun, we’ll drive you over, just let us know what time and we’ll be ready.”
So, what age?
I purposely did not answer that question. YOU know your child. You know what types of activities your child should be engaged in. You love your child more than anyone else. You, dear parent, know what is best for your individual teenager. Spend time with them. Allow them to see your heart of love and concern. Stay connected. Even when they are pushing you away—be present.
They want to have a relationship with you.
Don’t allow them to push you away. Ignore the chants of, Leave me alone! You’re annoying! You are ruining my life! Your teenager needs your wisdom and guidance. Be present. Be their parent. They need you. Stay close.
Forge on frazzled one, a day will come where all your efforts will pay off with huge dividends called grandkids!
It’s never too soon to talk with your teenager about marriage. Order Lucille Williams’ book “From Me to We: A Premarital Guide for the Bride- and Groom- to- Be.” Want Lu to speak at your church or event? You can reach Lu through her Contact page. You can also send in topics for discussion or questions for future posts.