Even before Colby and I began to notice that Cheyenne, our oldest, had an interest in boys, we talked about our family dating rules. As Youth Workers at church for several years, we had helped lead True Love Waits retreats and listened to the stories of other families. We set an age we felt was appropriate and had every intent to stick by that guideline. Until Cheyenne turned 14.
We had recently moved to a new city where Chey quickly made friends and garnished the attention of a young boy. They were the best of friends, yet he asked her to be his girlfriend almost every day for months. In fact, he suggested that they secretly date since she kept telling him no based on out pre-set age guideline. She decided to go ahead with dating him secretly — for less than 12 hours. Her conscience got the best of her and she came to me.
We talked about the reasons she felt she wanted to date and why it was important to her. I shared a story from my own teenage dating experience with her that I felt would express my own concerns for her safety. After an emotional, raw conversation, I told her I would discuss it with her dad and see what we came up with. It took some convincing, but the three of us came up with a compromise we could all agree on. Establishing guidelines for everyone was important to Colby and I, and Chey was open to helping us set forth a practical list of rules for teen dating.
Whom Can They Date
Of course we want the best for them. They’re our children. What values are you looking for in a person suitable for dating? What qualities is your son/daughter looking for? Openly discuss an acceptable age difference. There is quite a bit of life-experiences and growing that can occur from middle school to high school, so this precedent needs to be set early. We also requested that we meet each possible suitor, and often said no before the first date was even allowed.
How Can They Date
We felt most secure beginning with group dates. A group date with trusted friends, stamped with the parent’s approval, can act as a check-and-balance situation for the couple. Not to mention, there is a sense of security for both the parents and teens.
Where Can They Date
Once the couple moves past group dates, where are appropriate places for dates? Bedrooms. Off limits. Other person’s house without the parents home? No way. Common sense and conversation both come into play here. Discuss what you believe is best for everyone to alleviate any possible temptation or trouble. And, as much as we not want to talk about it, this is an ideal time to talk to your teen about sex, abuse and setting boundaries. This is perhaps the most important conversation you will have on the topic of dating and should be openly discussed.
This is the time to put everything on the table. From curfews to cell phone usage to responsibilities.
- What time must he/she be home?
- What time should phone calls/texts end each night?
- How will communication between the couple be handled? Will mom/dad check texts? How often?
- Do the parents have an open door policy for conversations?
- What happens in the event of heart break?
From a parent’s perspective, it can be a challenging situation to maneuver. It’s a complex issue to handle and, as we’ve learned, varies from one child to the next. Our son went his entire teenage years without dating. We have a daughter that just turned 13 and has begun asking questions about dating—plus two more daughters coming right behind her. And Chey, she married her high school sweetheart over a year and a half ago. He was only the second boy we approved to her dating.
The boy mentioned above? Still one of her best friends. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, you can do this!
MORE ON TEEN DATING
I am teaming up with my friends Kristen and Justine to share teen topics each month. Read what they have to say about teen dating here: