Ah, the wild world of teenagers dating—the mix of butterflies, drama and hormones that can leave any parent feeling like they’re on a rollercoaster ride they didn’t sign up for.
As much as you might want to hide in a cupboard and come out when it’s all over, as a parent, you have a vital role to play.
How teenagers manage their first relationships can impact their romantic choices moving forward for the rest of their lives. It’s not just about providing the sex talk or a shoulder to cry on. We must instil in them a greater understanding of human nature, an unwavering sense of self-esteem and the ability to recognise experiences as lessons … and to ultimately learn from them.
Absolutely necessary? Also yes.
Join me as we explore practical strategies, share a few laughs, and learn how to support your teenagers dating.
When your kids are encountering new (some strange) experiences, intense emotions, bodily changes, and more complex relationships, the last thing you want to do is cut yourself off.
As a mum, you want to be someone they can easily approach and seek advice about relationships and personal problems they struggle to resolve. You want to be someone who they trust.
As you may remember from your teen years, they are more likely to confide in their friends about their dating situation or try to process conflicts independently.
It’s not necessarily because they don’t want your help; it’s because they want to see themselves as more adult and capable individuals. There may be an element, too, of them doubting whether you would not understand their predicament completely.
Whether the latter part is or isn’t true, make it clear you will not judge them. You can maintain a respectful boundary and maintain authority while becoming a friend to your becoming-adult teen.
Help them recognise red flags
As adults, we can generally spot red flags in an unhealthy relationship, but we still miss a few. The red flags can be innocently ignored or not recognised by teenagers dating for the first time.
For this reason, it is your job to point out red flags that suggest a lack of respect, poor communication or consent issues.
Gently explain that if their partner ditched them last minute to hang with their mates, this is not just annoying, but a big red flag with flashing neon letters saying ‘lack of respect’.
You can also mention the green flags which show their relationship is healthy so you don’t come across as all doom and gloom!
Share some of your own dating stories
Remember that your children only know you as Mum.
They never met the version of you who cried over boy problems, left angry voicemails fresh off a breakup, and went starry-eyed at every bad boy who entered the room.
Show them you understand by sharing stories about your own dating past. This includes how you met people, your mistakes, and the lessons you learned. And don’t forget the positive dynamics and emotions you treasure and hope they will also have the opportunity to experience in their own life.
It’s a great way to share perspectives and bond over funny stories. It will allow your teen to get to know you better, while guiding them through your own lived experiences on navigating dating better.
Promote self-confidence in teenagers dating
Puberty can affect your kids’ confidence in different ways. Whether it “blesses” them with features considered attractive among their peers, or frustrates them with flaws that make them feel unattractive, hormonal changes are confusing.
Your job is to ensure your teenagers know that they deserve respect and love, regardless of their appearance.
Instill in them a sense of self-respect where they understand that they should first prioritise learning how to love themselves before pouring into others. Teach them that the way they treat themselves is indicative of how they treat others.
Guide your kids on how to practise good hygiene. It will also be fun to explore colours and silhouettes of clothes with them so they can discover styles that complement their skin tone, hair color, and body types. This will boost their confidence in developing their own style - as opposed to solely complying with trends - to make them feel more comfortable in how they choose to present themselves.
Give your teens good examples of confident and attractive people whom your kids may relate to. And help them understand the importance of good social skills, a positive attitude, politeness and respect.
Have the sex talk
Face the reality: Telling your teenagers dating to stop themselves from having sex will not stop them from doing it. It didn’t stop us years ago!
While most of us prefer to preserve our kids’ innocence for as long as we can, we must accept that they are entering a stage where exploring their bodies to express desire and find pleasure will be inevitable.
First, research and gather factual information to relay to your teen. Be open to the possibility that you may not know everything and need to update your knowledge. Health agencies publish several legitimate resources online to help you with the correct information that you can use to share with your teen.
An excellent way to approach The Talk and eliminate distrust is to assure your children that you do not wish (now or ever in the future) to police or to know what they do with their bodies. You only want to discuss fact-based lessons with them that will keep them safe from unwanted pregnancies and diseases.
Clarify things that are readily accepted false truths. The best example is that the withdrawal/pull-out contraception method is ineffective. Then lay down the consequences of not using protection or subscribing to beliefs that are not science-based.
And don’t forget to reiterate that unfortunate consequences can happen to ANYONE if they are not careful. Make them understand that safe and consensual sex shows their respect towards others and their own body, and it is the only way to have healthy sex.
Discuss safety in all areas of dating
While safe sex is a vast and vital topic to discuss and teach your teenagers dating, remember that safety should be taught concerning other areas of dating too.
Touch upon ensuring their physical and psychological safety around the person they want to date. Teach them signs and behaviours to watch out for in people who may have tendencies to be abusive.
Discuss with your teens how real people with awful intentions and unresolved traumas exist, and it’s not impossible to be targeted by them through dating. Teach them how to avoid and protect themselves by making the right choices.
Empower your kids to believe in their boundaries and to set parameters for their safety. For example, discuss with them the right approach to choosing where to go for dates, deciding on times or hours that are best for their safety to socialise, and identifying which crowds they should avoid.
Model healthy relationships
If you had trash taste in partners before, now is the perfect time to raise those standards. Make sure your children have a great example of someone who respects herself and only allows herself to be in the company of those who will also appreciate, love, and cherish her.
This does not only apply to romantic relationships, but also to platonic and familial ones. If your teens see a healthy and happy dynamic between you and your friends, other family members, and partners, they will also want to date to foster a healthy relationship.
Attachment behaviours, relationship dynamics, gender roles, and preferences are learned. Ask yourself this question:
“Do I want my child to date someone who will treat my child the same way my partner treats me (or vice versa)?”
If the answer is no, you have some fixing and decision-making to do.
The tighter you hold onto someone, the harder they will try to break free. This also applies to your teen.
Letting them be is one way to show your kids you trust them.
After you teach your child everything there is to know about sex, safety, dating, and relationships, all you can do is let go. From time to time, remind them to make good choices and to always respect others and themselves. But you cannot hover over their dating 24/7.
Allowing your kids to be more independent and explore dating and relationships will build their confidence and develop their wisdom to deal with people and their own emotions.
Encourage a balanced approach
We all know the heady feeling of a new relationship and how wonderful it feels. Everything else in our life feels insignificant.
It is easy to feel this way but also unhealthy because if something goes wrong with loves-young-dream or the relationship ends, they might feel they have nowhere to turn.
Remind your dating teenager about the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between dating and other aspects of their life, such as academics, friendships, hobbies, and self-care.
If the message isn’t hitting home, tell them that having a life/friends/interests outside their relationship will make their partner keener on them.
Respect their choices
If your teen is well-informed and has healthy self-esteem, you should allow them to process their dating circumstances and make their own choices.
I know, that mop-headed boy will never be good enough for your baby princess. But that baby is now a well-adjusted 17 years old, and you have taught her well to make their own decisions regarding dating.
If you respect your kids’ choices, instead of worrying about proving themselves to you, lying to you, or keeping things from you, you give them the space and confidence to “see” for themselves and to keep making the right choices.