It goes without saying that teens date. You may remember your own teenage dating experiences and how you were as a teen, and acknowledge that this is a part of life and it’s natural for teens to want to date.
As a parent, you want to be supportive, but also need to know how to help keep your teen safe when they’re engaging in relationships. It can be challenging to see your child growing up, but dating can be healthy for teens and help them learn how to avoid abusive relationships and other risks of dating. Some tips below can help your teen navigate these relationships, as well as help you as a parent create an understanding with them and create some ground rules, which are key to healthy teen dating relationships. To honor both Valentine's Day coming up and teen dating safety month, consider some of the tips below.
· Create and enforce a curfew. Curfews seem simple enough but many parents don’t take this step when their teen starts to date. Creating a curfew helps form boundaries and also ensures your teen has a set time that their date will end, and can alleviate some parental anxiety and also ensure your teen stays safe.
· Establish and enforce ground rules for your teen. Have expectations in place and then communicate with your teen what is and is not allowed. For example, tell your teen they aren’t allowed at a partner’s house without their parents being there, or tell them they need to tell you if plans change and they do something else and have them let you know.
· Meet the person your teen is going out with. Ah, the awkward meet the parents’ part. Many teens are often embarrassed by having their date meet their parents but it’s crucial that you are able to see and meet whom they are going out with so you have an idea of who they are and can start to build a rapport with them as well. This is an important teen dating safety tip that shouldn’t be overlooked, no matter how much you trust your teen.
· Be your teen’s excuse. Sometimes teenagers find themselves in precarious situations and they’re in over their heads. Whether a date isn’t going well, or your teen reports something dangerous or suspicious, or their date is pressuring them for sex or other things they don’t want to do, be their standing excuse. It can also be helpful to create a code word that others don’t know that can be texted or said in a phone call if there is an emergency and they aren’t able to say exactly what’s happening but need you.
· Respect your teen’s privacy and let them come to you without judgment. If possible, do your best to avoid asking difficult questions or expressing your disappointment in your teen if they find themselves in a bad situation or made a mistake. By not pressuring your teen to talk to you about something until they’re ready, they feel like they may be able to trust you more and you’ll be a more informed parent and your teen may feel less fearful coming to you or getting in trouble.
· Teach your teen the dangers and signs of an abusive relationship. Abuse can take many forms. Physical, emotional, and mental abuse are all legitimate forms of abuse. By talking with your teen about abusive relationships and letting them know the signs to look out for, you can help them create healthy boundaries and keep themselves safe. For a discussion on abusive relationship signs for teens, click here.
· Talk about consent. Consent is one of the most important facets of teen dating, and extends well into the realm of dating as an adult too. Remind your teen what consent is, no matter how awkward the conversation may feel, and empower them and tell them they don’t have to do something their dating partner wants to do if they don’t want to do it. Consent can help prevent misunderstandings, sexual assault, and abuse. For tips on how to talk to your teen about consent, click here.
To learn more about teen dating safety, click here for more information.