Does the thought of your teen dating make you nervous or uneasy?
If you said “yes,” you’re not alone.
As a parent, it’s natural to worry when your teens start dating.
We want them to be happy, healthy, and focused on pursuing meaningful goals.
It isn’t enough to tell your teens that “there will be no dating until you turn 18.” Teenage romance is normal, after all.
It’s important to strike a balance between setting rules, offering guidance, and letting teens explore dating on their own.
In this article, I’ll help you understand what you should know about teen dating. I’ll also share some rules and relationship advice that you can discuss with your teens.
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Why teens fall in love in high school
Do you recall your first experience of falling in love?
Even if it doesn’t exactly mirror your teen’s experiences, you may still be able to relate to some of his or her feelings.
As parents, knowing we’ve been through something similar can help us accept that high school dating is, in fact, a normal part of adolescence.
When your teenagers see their peers in romantic relationships, it invokes a longing to experience the same thing.
In addition, companionship and a sense of belonging become all the more important at this time.
The development of the brain and body during adolescence can also trigger hormonal changes. This may contribute to feelings of being in love and of sexual attraction.
We can’t stop our teens from falling in love – it’s natural. But we can still provide reasonable advice and boundaries to guide them along.
The role of teenage relationships
Unhealthy teenage relationships can indeed take a toll on your teen’s well-being. In contrast, healthy dating does have its benefits.
Research has found that love and romance are core aspects of adolescent development.
Studies have shown that healthy teenage dating can lead to the following benefits:
- Reduced aggression and risk-taking behaviors
- Improved conflict management
- Better communication skills
- Better decision-making
- Identity development
- Emotional growth
- Social learning
During this stage of life, your teenagers are still figuring out how to interact with others.
They’re learning to set boundaries, deal with conflicts, and improve communication. But it’s all a work in progress.
This is where healthy dating can help them learn skills and develop abilities to build strong relationships with others. This includes their peers, family members, employers, and future partners.
Teenage love and its complexities: What parents should be aware of
Teenage dating can be a positive experience.
But it’s still important for parents to understand the challenges and complexities surrounding it.
Plus, dating has changed a lot from when we were in our teens’ shoes.
Parents should be mindful of the following aspects of modern teenage dating:
Social media and pop culture influence
An estimated 90% of teenagers between 13 and 17 have used social media. Around 50% report using these platforms daily.
Movies, TV shows, and pop songs are also common forms of media that teenagers consume.
Because of the influence of pop culture and mass media, teens might have an unrealistic view of sex and relationships.
This is where parents can step in to help them differentiate between truth and the fiction they see online or in movies.
Social and dating apps
Social media is a popular way to connect with people from all over the world.
In fact, statistics show that almost half of teens have expressed their interest in another person through social media.
While these platforms can help teens meet new friends and even find love interests, teaching them about online safety is crucial.
Online dangers like grooming, harassment, sexting, and privacy issues are things your teens should be aware of. Some dating apps even let users under 18 create profiles and connect with potential dates.
Of course, your teens don’t need to avoid using the Internet completely. But there should be guidelines on what they should and shouldn’t do.
Relationship red flags
When your teenagers are in love, they may not see certain things that you do.
While you might not be able to control who your teens end up dating, you can still look out for them and point out potential red flags.
Try to have a respectful conversation with your teen if his or her partner shows the following red flags:
- Being obsessive and unwilling to give your teen his or her own space
- Ignoring your teen’s boundaries
- Becoming jealous, manipulative, and controlling
- Getting easily angered and having mood swings
- Disrespecting you as your teen’s parent
If you see these warning signs, reassure your teens that you care and that you want what’s best for them.
Showing that you’re focused on their well-being will make them more likely to talk to you about the relationship issues they may have.
Best relationship tips to share with your teen
Talking about love, dating, and sex with your teenager can be awkward.
But, as parents, we cannot afford to outsource these conversations to mass media or pop culture.
Don’t leave these conversations till their first heartbreak.
When you see your teens showing an interest in romance, have an honest chat with them.
Not sure where to start?
Here are some important pieces of relationship advice you can share with your teens:
Tip #1: Keep to the rules that have been discussed
Setting hard-and-fast rules without discussing them with your teens will cause them to hide things from you or sneak around behind your back.
Instead, sit your teens down and explain the reasoning behind the rules you set. Ask for their opinions about the rules, and listen attentively.
Certain rules that guard your teen’s safety shouldn’t be negotiable.
But there is room for compromise when it comes to other rules, such as their nighttime curfew or which days they’re allowed to go out.
Of course, all this depends on your teen’s level of maturity and responsibility.
Here is a list of things to consider when setting dating rules for your teens:
- What age they’re allowed to start dating: Do they have a grasp of what dating will involve? Do they know what it means to respect themselves and others? Are they handling the other responsibilities in their life well? There’s no right age for dating. So it boils down to your teen’s maturity level. Also, consider the age gap between your teens and their potential partners. Aside from different maturity levels, a significant age gap could lead to legal issues.
- Date night expectations: Lay out ground rules for dating. Discuss whether one-on-one dates are appropriate. If they are, your teens should let you know where they’re going, who they’re with, and when they’ll be back when they go out on dates.
- Dating safety rules: If your teens are going out with a new partner or someone they’ve just met, you’ll need to establish rules related to safety. These rules may include the types of places they’re allowed to hang out at, how long they should be out, and whether they should be alone with the other person. You may also ask your teens to send you updates on their location or text you from time to time when they’re out.
- The level of privacy that’s reasonable: Should your teenager be allowed to close the bedroom door when his or her partner is over? How early into the relationship would you like to meet that special someone? Should you be checking your teen’s messages? Discuss a level of privacy that’s reasonable for your teenager’s age and the current stage of dating.
Work on creating these rules with your teen, listening to and incorporating their input where possible.
It’s also a good idea to give your teens some autonomy to decide on the boundaries and consequences for breaking them.
Tip #2: Set and respect boundaries
Setting boundaries is the key to a healthy relationship. Here are some examples of the different types of boundaries to discuss with your teens:
- Physical: Your teens might not be comfortable with certain types of physical touch. These may include holding hands, kissing, or hugging. Perhaps they don’t want to be touched in certain areas. These are important boundaries to have in a relationship.
- Sexual: You can discuss your family’s values and principles related to sex. Encourage your teens to think about what they’re comfortable with based on their values and beliefs. Sexual intimacy can leave teenagers feeling vulnerable. So it’s vital to speak about boundaries to prevent premature sexual intimacy.
- Emotional: Emotional boundaries help your teens navigate big emotions in a relationship. For instance, your teen may want space and time to cool off before resolving a conflict. Breakups and serious conversations shouldn’t be done over text. And neither party should take out their frustrations on the other. While these might seem like common sense, they are concerns to talk about.
- Privacy and personal space: Is your teen’s partner allowed to stay over at your house? Should they be exchanging passwords or looking at each other’s messages?
- Financial: How much is your teen comfortable spending on dates? Should both partners take turns paying for meals?
Encourage your teenager to talk openly with their partner from the start. They should both be clear about what they’re okay with and what they’re not.
Also, remind your teens that respect goes both ways. Let them know it’s important to respect their partner’s boundaries.
Tip #3: Don’t take online safety for granted
Connecting with potential love interests online, either through mutual friends on social media or DM-ing someone in your social network, has many risks associated with it.
Your teens should know how to protect themselves online, especially when talking to new people.
There should be clear rules and boundaries for using dating apps for teens under 18.
Here are some pieces of advice to share with your teens:
- Sexting and sending nudes is very dangerous, even more so for teens. Don’t be pressured into sending messages or pictures you’re uncomfortable with. Leaked nudes are becoming an increasingly common occurrence.
- Remember that what you post stays online. As a rule of thumb, only post updates or photos you’d be comfortable showing your teacher or grandmother.
- People might not be who they say they are. Be cautious about trusting new people with your personal information, like your name, address, or school.
- Be extra careful if you wish to meet up with the person. Inform either parent beforehand, and meet in a public place. You should tell either parent your entire itinerary and provide regular location or text updates during the date.
Here’s a resource with expert tips for online safety that you can share with your teen.
Telling your teenager to completely avoid social media or talking to people online is impossible. Sometimes, online friendships can bloom into romance. So discuss ground rules as early as possible and stay updated on the apps your teens are using.
Tip #4: Don’t lose sight of your priorities
As a teenager, juggling school, family, extracurricular activities, and relationships can be tricky.
This doesn’t mean teenagers shouldn’t spend time with their partners or go on date nights. But certain rules and boundaries can help them manage their time and energy better.
Some aspects to consider include the following:
- Whether they should complete their schoolwork and chores before going out
- How much time they should reserve for family dinners or outings
- How many days or nights a week they’re allowed to go out
- What their curfew is for date nights
Dealing with breakups
Teenagers are still figuring out how to handle big feelings, so breakups can be tough on them.
Your teens might not break the news to you that they’ve ended things with their partner. So look for signs of a breakup.
These may include a change in your teenager’s daily mood, eating habits, school performance, and sleeping routine.
He or she might also withdraw from friends or family members and stop doing activities they used to enjoy.
When your teens are ready to talk about it, there are various ways you can support them, including the following:
- Don’t minimize their emotions. Validate their big feelings. Try to make yourself available when your teens need you, and create a non-judgemental space for them to share their experiences.
- Listen to them when they’re ready to talk. Don’t interrupt, nag, or make negative remarks like “I told you so” or “It’s not a big deal.” Put away all distractions when your teens are speaking.
- Do things that make your teens feel loved. You can sit by them as they watch their favorite movie or you can cook their favorite meal for them.
- Encourage them to get support from trusted friends. Your teens might not feel comfortable sharing every single detail with you, and that’s okay.
While breakups are painful, they can be a valuable opportunity for your teenagers to learn how to deal with sadness, anger, and rejection.
Talking about romance, love, and sex with your teens can be awkward. But these aren’t one-and-done conversations.
This is new territory for both you and your teens. Things like rules, boundaries, values, and opinions will change over time. So it’s perfectly normal to revisit these discussions.
With the right approach, you’ll be a safe place your teens will go to in order to get dating advice and emotional support.
(Don’t forget to download your free e-book below.)