At some point, the day that all parents dread will arrive – the day our children want to start dating. We’ve all experienced the moment when someone strikes our fancy, and we realize that our feelings are more than friendship. But seeing those feelings emerge in children inspires all types of joy, concern, fear, and worry.
A good idea is to think ahead about how you will handle this situation and what wisdom and knowledge you will impart to your child. More importantly, you need to establish rules for your child to follow.
It’s great that your child wants to date and is ready to embark on a new journey in his life, but he needs to know that it's a privilege, and there are guidelines he must follow.
Here are a few rules you might consider setting in place.
1. Introductions Are Necessary
As a parent, you need to know who your child is dating. There needs to be a face-to-face introduction and it needs to happen early in the relationship. The meeting should be comfortable and relaxed and give you a chance to get to know the person your child is planning to spend time with.
2. Information Must Be Shared
Your child needs to be forthcoming with information about the new person in their life. Where does she go to school? Where does she live? Who are her parents, and what do they do? These are just a few questions that you’re going to have, and your child will need to answer them.
3. Limits Must Be Set
You must establish clear and unwavering guidelines with your child when it comes to dating. For instance, how much time can your child spent on the phone, online, and in person with their boyfriend/girlfriend? If your child violates these rules or tries to get sneaky with you, you need to make sure there are consequences.
4. Honesty Is Required
This might be the most important. You need to make sure that your child is being straight with you about his dating plans. If he's telling you that he's out with someone, then that’s who he's with. If your child tells you he's going somewhere, then that’s where he'll be. If you suspect misbehavior, then you need to be proactive and check it out. If your child is lying, there must be consequences.
5. He/She Needs to Know That You Will Check
When your child is a minor and living under your roof, you have every right to check his phone and Internet use. Which apps is he using? What pics and status updates is he posting on social media? What is your child saying to his new significant other in emails and text messages?
6. Remind Him/Her That Photos Live Forever
Dating in 2016 is much different than when we were kids. Any pictures that we took, we had to wait to get developed. Nowadays, our children think nothing of pulling out a smartphone and snapping dozens of pictures of every activity and mood change. Your children need to know that pictures live forever and that “sexy” photos are strictly off limits. There’s no telling where or when those pictures might pop up, and in extreme cases, they could be considered pornography and could create big legal trouble.
7. Decide if Alone Time Is Allowed
Depending on your child’s age, alone time with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend is prohibited. Sure, they’ll probably try to get around that, because that’s what kids do. But you must set boundaries anyway, and make sure that your child abides by those rules while under your roof.
8. Establish Trust
It’s critical that your child trusts that he can come to you if he has problems or issues. We all know that dating can create new feelings and drama. Your child will be experiencing new emotions and be placed in situations that require more maturity and expertise than he has. It’s imperative that your child understands that he can come to you with those concerns and ask any questions without fear of judgment.
Finally, parents can use this experience as a teaching moment. There will be many opportunities to discuss with your child some of the dos and don'ts of not only dating but relationships in general. Try to impart to your child that he must use his head and trust his instincts. If someone is encouraging him to do something that he doesn't feel comfortable with, he should not do it. Peer pressure is not acceptable and he should feel confident and comfortable expressing himself to his date. If not, there’s probably something wrong.
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