How to Prepare Your Kid for the Physical Act of Dating

Last year, I was having lunch with a friend who was entering his senior year in college. I met him when he was in high school and have kept in touch. When he asked me to go to lunch neither of us could have guessed where the conversation would end up—being about sex and dating. If he had known he might have decided not to come. He told me about a girl he had been dating. I asked him if he felt like she was the one. When he confirmed that he believed she was, I asked him if he wanted to wait until marriage before having sex. His eyes got wide at the directness of my question. After he told me that was his goal I got more direct, “How do you intend to do that?” He had no plan and no idea.

I started to talk to him about a game plan. After he got over the initial discomfort with the topic, he was grateful to be talking about it. Many teens are told how to treat one another in a dating relationship, but few parents are able to prepare them for the physical aspect of dating. Simply giving teens vague suggestions like, “make good choices,” won’t work, neither will authoritatively forbidding certain actions. We need to help prepare our teens. Nothing ends a relationship or causes more pain than when two people reach a physical place that goes beyond their commitment level. Here’s how to prepare your kid for the physical act of dating.

Note: I am not going to talk about exactly what boundaries to set, how far is too far, pornography, or the appropriate context for sex. There’s plenty of debate about how far is too far and you can determine that with your child. The following are points that will help them with their thought process.

The physical aspect needs to be talked about and boundaries set.

Very few couples actually talk about the physical aspect of the relationship, if at all. That’s why they end up slipping into behavior they never intended wondering how they got there. They got there because they didn’t plan. Every relationship should be entered from a physical standpoint as if it were going to end in marriage. Therefore, you need to plan out physical affection in the same way you prepare for a marathon. If you sprint out quickly you will never last. The longer the run, the slower you should start.

The girl is NOT the gatekeeper.

Though girls are becoming more physically forward in relationships, the burden on holding boundaries still rests on them in many circumstances. Generally speaking, many guys view getting farther physically as something they need to conquer and the girl is the gatekeeper. Boundaries need to be held by both people. The burden should never rest on one and when it is the couple is sure to go too far. Therefore, if someone doesn’t have the same standards then get out of the relationship.

The longer you’re together the harder it is to hold boundaries.

The last point is especially important as the relationship progresses. The longer the relationship goes on boundaries will become harder to hold. Being physical will only make you want more and more. The temptation will increase at an increasing rate the minute you start. So if you start dating at fourteen you have to realize that if it ends in marriage you are probably looking at, at least, a ten-year timeline before marriage. The younger you are, the more important it is to hold off on the physical aspect of a relationship.

Crossing boundaries has a cost.

Teens won’t understand this until it happens, but you need to communicate it all the same. Being physical in a relationship is like bonding two pieces of construction paper together. The further you go, the more painful it is when a break up occurs. And that pain can be long-lasting and detrimental to future relationships. One thing to consider is: Is this good for the other person or am I just trying to get what feels good? Another to consider is: How comfortable would I feel telling a future spouse about my current physical relationship?

The choice is theirs and the person they are dating.

They need to feel and own the responsibility. As a parent, you will never be able to control this aspect of your teen’s life. You can set up your own boundaries and rules, but they will always be able to find a way around them if they want. So having a voice in their life and preparing them is your best bet. Let them know that ultimately it is up to them, but that the wrong decision comes with painful consequences. Sharing your own experience may be helpful here. Then let them know you are there for them no matter what.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When do you think it’s okay for two people to have sex?”