So how do parents navigate dating during the early teen years? By early, I mean around 13-15 years old. Too young to go out solo, but interested in the idea of getting together with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I will share what we have done with the disclaimer that I am not saying our way is the “right” way, but it felt right to us. And since there are no How To books for parenting teens in 2019, something is better than nothing, right?
Dating started out as texting and Facetiming. No actual dates. That was with boyfriend #1. As she got older, she wanted to go on actual dates. Initially that looked like this – I would coordinate with the parent of the boyfriend and arrange to meet at the local movie theater, which happens to be in a neighborhood with other shops. They watched the movie while I waited at the market down the road. There is a yogurt shop next to the movie theater, so post movie chatting and yogurt. She would text when she was ready to go. As she felt more comfortable, I would drop her off and not stay nearby. And she always has her phone with her, but that is a given in any situation with teenagers.
We did have a talk prior to face to face dates. I explained that she could change her mind about what she did/did not want to do. Did she want to hold hands, kiss, etc. She might go into the date thinking she did not want to kiss, for example, but ended feeling comfortable enough later on. What should not happen is for the boyfriend to change her mind by saying something along the lines of “you would do this if you really liked me.”
I also learned the social etiquette in terms of who pays for the dates thanks to an elective in middle school called Human Sexuality. (Thank you Carolina Friends School and your willingness to talk about everything). In 2019 whoever makes the ask is the person who pays. Gone are the days of male chivalry.
Dates have progressed to hanging out at each other’s houses with boyfriend #3. The best part of dates at home? Her room instantly became so clean and tidy, as did the upstairs bathroom. She did ask if they could keep the door to the TV room closed. I agreed with the stipulation that I could come in at anytime, which I did.
Once dates became frequent, I decided we needed to talk some more around the topic of being true to yourself while in a relationship with a boy. She should not change who she is to please him or make him like her. He should like her for who she is. Period. I am proud to say that boyfriend #3 is a huge basketball fan of our family’s rival team. He actually said he couldn’t talk last night during the end of a nail bitter game in the NCAA tournament… haha. We take basketball very seriously where we live.
I have friends who ask a really good question – what if my teenager is not interested dating, or only wants to be friends and not officially boy or girl friends. That is just fine folks. There is no reason to rush them into relationships they might not be ready for or interested in.
So there you have it. My thoughts on dating in the early teen years. Do you do things differently? That is ok. What works for some families might not work for others. I think the biggest take away I would want you to have after reading this post is to keep those lines of communication open during the teen years. It might be hard to hear what they say some times, but they still need you to be there for them…even when they are taller than you.
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!