We have often heard and experienced how dramatic teen dating can be from the mood swings to slipping of grades and outright rebellion. The child you knew to be a model of good behavior suddenly goes in the opposite direction when you give the go-ahead for dating. As a relationship expert and coach, here are my suggestions for preparing your teen for positive dating experiences.
1. Teach Good Dating Habits. The best way you can teach your teen to develop positive dating habits is to model good relationship behavior through your marriage on a daily basis. When your teen can see a concrete example of how a couple resolves conflicts, practices forgiveness when feelings are hurt, treat each other with mutual love, respect and care, trust each other, have a solid friendship, and display affection and love toward each other, it will imprint in their mind the necessary qualities and characteristics of a good relationship. What you show at home will be their normal in love and dating and the type of relationship they will naturally gravitate toward. I encourage parents to evaluate their relationship and work through their barriers to love so children can attract emotionally healthy individuals to date. You can share with your child all these qualities and characteristics, but it is your example that speaks the loudest.
2. Pay Attention To Red Flags. During these first dating experiences, you should be mindful of anyone who is jealous of the time he or she spends away from the relationship, isolating them from the people and things they love. It is important that parents clearly communicate the need for maintaining friendships, school work, family time, outside activities and pursuits the teen had before this relationship. Dating is a privilege, not a must-have, regardless of what their friends are doing. Ideally, parents should communicate the need for balance in all these life realms and point out that dating is an addition to the foundation of their life, it is not a replacement for what they have already established. If you can teach proper life balance, it is a tool your teen can take with them during college and beyond. It is also important to encourage your teen to listen to their intuition and feel comfortable coming to you when something does not feel right. Many times it is very easy to rationalize away negativity and bad dating behavior and even take the blame. Talking over these challenges allows a teen to understand if the warning signs they sense are valid and steps to take from that point forward. Many teens believe loyalty in love means they must give up everything and devote themselves completely to the other person. Losing their identity in a relationship and looking for that to be the source of their emotional validation will lead to very poor patterns.
3. Monitor The Relationship. To better ensure your teen has positive dating experiences, parents should oversee texting and social media habits. Explain that it is not a trust issue, but it is a way to mentor and guide them toward interacting well with each other. As much as teens believe they know everything about everything, it is vital to stay a little more in their business with these new relationships so they learn how to maintain proper perspective, enjoying dating but also staying connected with the life they have already built. When these first loves end, it will be less likely your teen will feel hopeless and depressed when you take the time to offer your guidance and direction.
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