It was a shock to the system when my kids became old enough to date. I always thought I would be ready, but when the day finally came, I was filled with fear. Questions flooded my mind. “Are they mature enough? Have I prepared them? Who are they interested in and does that person have the best interests of my child in mind?”
After my initial rush of anxiety, I calmed down, discussed dating advice for kids with parents who had already walked this road, and determined how I needed to prepare my children. I want to make sure they experience emotional health in dating. Here are several important points to share with our kids.
Dating requires boundaries.
It’s important to understand where our boundaries are from day one. Boundaries protect what is important. They connect us to our foundational values and help anchor our experiences going forward. This is worth thinking through, independent of a particular relationship. Discuss appropriate boundaries with your kids and teach your kids how to hold them. Encourage your children to continue talking with you about boundaries as they grow up because boundaries may change with time.
Dating requires communication of expectations.
When we understand where we are going, it makes the journey easier to navigate. A huge piece of this is clear communication. While all people have to find their own voices, here are some examples of clearly communicated boundaries that can be helpful to share.
- “I want to get to know you, so we’re going to meet in public.”
- “I need to be home by curfew, no exceptions.”
- “I would feel more comfortable if we shared the cost of the date.”
- “Sexual intimacy is not an option right now. I believe dating is about getting to know someone on other levels.”
Dating requires awareness of manipulative behaviors.
Pressure in dating is bad for emotional health. Talk to your children so they understand that they do not have the right to pressure or control their partner and so they know who they can come to for support if their partner is trying to control them. There are many warning signs for manipulation, but these five are especially helpful.*
- They make you feel guilty for everything (manipulation always starts with guilt).
- They force their insecurities on you (making their insecurities your problem).
- They make you doubt yourself (“trust me more than your own feelings”).
- They make you responsible for their emotions (“I’m sad, or angry, but it’s your fault”).
- They make you believe that you want what they want (completely setting aside what you want/need to appease them).
Dating requires accepting that the relationship may need to end.
We sometimes have to accept that this isn’t a good match and walk away, rather than try to force a person to become what or who you need them to be. Dating involves an investment of time and emotion. That’s why it’s important to deal with one another honestly. Knowing who the other person is doesn’t mean judgment. It means making smart choices. We can like someone, even be attracted to them, but realize a relationship with that person is not good for us.
Sound off: What dating advice for kids do you think is most important?
Sponsored by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families. This project was supported by Contract No. LJ990 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you believe the purpose of dating is?”