Whether you are sixteen or the parent of one, the world of teen dating is filled with many successes and failures. As children grow and mature into their adult bodies, their interests may turn to dating - this can be a rough transition for teens and parents alike.
Creating strong friendships is the first step toward a healthy teen dating life. As a teen, your friends will largely affect your self-esteem and enjoyment. Make sure there is always a balance between your time with your friends and your time with your date when you begin to explore dating. Don't waste all your energy on a new boy or girlfriend, only to have the relationship explode and you quickly notice you no longer have anyone to call and complain too.
Trust Your Intuition
Along with friends for comfort and support, also comes the peer pressure naturally found in all teens' lives. As you begin to explore a variety of relationships in your teens, try to listen to your inner voice, instead of the loud voices of your circle of friends. It can be hard to tone down the pressure teens feel in today's world, so before you make any decisions about who to date or how to behave, quiet down those outside voices. Take a silent walk alone or write in a journal. Your inner voice will know the right choices for you; just take the time to listen.
With all the conflicting messages in teens' lives, it can be hard to know what they want when it comes to dating and relationships. As a young teen, take some time to get to know yourself before you start dating. Join a variety of activities and explore your own interests. Not only will this make you more interesting as a date, but it will also help you appreciate the types of people you want intimately involved in your life.
Instead of feeling pressure to move quickly into an intimate relationship, recognize that rates of sexual activity among teens have been steadily decreasing in the last 20 years. That means that any justification that "everyone else is doing it" simply isn't true.
Teen Dating Fun
When you are young, dating should be a fun activity. There is ample time in the future for more serious relationships. Many teens feel they need to have a boy or girlfriend, but what is really most important is learning to build healthy relationships. Utilize this youthful time to explore a variety of healthy attachments, including family, friends, and dating. Your experiences now set the stage for developing love and secure relationships as you grow and mature.
Before Dating Begins
Okay, you have felt the spark and you know this person must be the one for you. What do you do? Well, it may sound a bit tedious but take out a pen and paper first. Before asking anyone out on that first date, create a list of the qualifications that you require in a respectable girl or boyfriend. Be specific and list both the things that are the should have's and the ones that are the should have not's. While analyzing a possible date, also think about what you have to offer to a potential new friend.
The First Date
Once you have a good understanding of the type of person that would be the best for you, start planning that first date. Even before you have asked anyone out or been asked out, it is important to structure some basic plans. Going on a date involves some risk and planning, so the more you accomplish ahead of time, the better. Talk to your parents about rules and expectations, decide where and when you would like to out, and try to create some casual connections before taking the first big date alone together.
Love vs. Lust
There are many types of love: compassion for others, strong friendships or family connections. Teen love involves finding someone who you are attracted to who understands and appreciates you. Lust is a quick, intense physical attraction. Teen lust is sexual and driven by hormones. While it a normal physiological part of growing up, it can be very powerful and confusing.
It can be hard to tell the difference between love and lust as a teen. This complicates the teen dating scene significantly. Keeping a healthy perspective and appreciating that these emotions are significant and real will help facilitate the process. As a teen, allow yourself to feel these varying emotions but find healthy outlets for them. Savor your ability to learn control as it will benefit you in all aspects of your life as you leave your teen years.
Teen Dating Tips
- Communication is essential in all dating. Don't make assumptions and avoid gossip.
- Make it clear whether your relationships are exclusive or casual.
- If you get turned down or rejected, don't waste time on it - move on.
- Before asking anyone new out, get to know them a little first. It will make it easier to know what their answer might be.
Even before your children develop into teens, take some time to create family rules around teen dating and relationships. There is no true standard; the rules will vary by the values and traditions of different households. The important step is to make sure you have the rules clearly in place. Some concepts to consider are:
- Decide an age when your child can start to date -the average age when teens start dating one-on-one is around 16.
- You may choose to allow group dating arrangements before allowing one-on-one dating.
- Provide advice on how to behave on a date; a frank discussion about consent is a good idea before the teen starts dating.
- Specify beforehand where they are allowed to go on the date. Safe, well-populated locations are best.
- Curfews are important and expectations should be set, with consequences for a late arrival home.
- Set clear rules about being home alone with a date, or being behind closed doors.
- Internet restrictions and possible monitoring are important for those teens engaging in dating online.
Talk About Sex
Along with discussions about dating rules, it is important to revisit conversations about sex. Even if you have explained this process before, have that sex talk again. Realize that they know more than you think. While as parents we might feel anxious about this type of conversation with our maturing child, having a teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease is far worse. Don't rely on the schools to teach your teens about sexual relationships. Sex education in schools tends to be more scientific and biological in order to remain politically correct. Their friends have a strong influence on their sexual information, and you can explain it far more accurately than any of their peers.
A Fun Learning Experience
Teens not only enjoy dating, but it's actually an excellent learning experience. It's likely they will have many more relationships in adulthood (the average age for meeting your spouse is 27) and the lessons they learn while dating as a teen about setting boundaries and having mutual respect in a relationship will serve them well later in life.