Wow...this is a topic I have been thinking to write about for a while now, but I wasn't sure where to begin. It is a HUGE topic with so many considerations and so many different opinions. All I can do is give my thoughts and opinions based on being the mom of two young adult daughters who are past this. I will start with my top five do's and don'ts for the parent of a high school student with regard to dating. Not sure what to say about dating that actually starts at an age younger than high school. While I realize this happens, I did not experience this with my own kids. I may still consider writing about it at another time. Kids are starting high school at 13 or 14, so let's hope there are not too many dating concerns before this!😳
TOP 5 DO's
1. Keep lines of communication open: This should be the case about any topic, but definitely about dating. Discuss it. Get a feel for your child's interest in possibly having a relationship. Do they have other friends already dating? Ask the questions even if you don't get the complete answers. Let your child know what your concerns are and make sure they feel free to talk to you about theirs.
2. Be flexible: Even if you went into these teen age years thinking my child won't be allowed to date until... fill in the age you feel is appropriate, perhaps you should also consider who your child meets and the impact this person has on him or her. It may be that a friend turns into more than a friend at an age you originally thought was too young. If the maturity is there and the dating is reasonable and safe, it may be okay. Remember in today's world, there are a lot of things that can go on without our knowledge, so we need to show flexibility early on and be open to scenarios we may have felt unsure about.
3. Keep them safe: In my opinion, online stuff at this age is just not appropriate. Meeting others of the same or very similar age in school or other events with kids in the same age group is okay. Meeting someone online is NOT okay.
4. Meet the boyfriend/girlfriend: If your child wants to begin dating someone, it is totally appropriate for you to meet him or her, and if it is a long lasting relationship, I would want to meet the other parents as well.
5. Embrace the idea: Even if you feel like you are "losing" your child, you need to realize that he/she is growing up. Developing a relationship especially as they get further along in the high school years is very natural and normal. There is still such a thing as "high school sweethearts" who eventually get married. If your child is lucky enough to meet the perfect person at this age, embrace it and be happy for them.
TOP 5 DON'Ts
1. Forbid them to date: I feel like being extreme about this or any other major parenting topic or decision at this age is sure to backfire. It will often lead to rebellion and conflict. Far better to have an open conversation about it and come up with a compromise, perhaps an age you feel is reasonable to start dating, but this shouldn't be a hard stop. If it is, they will just find ways around it and do it behind your back.
2. Be too judgemental: You may or may not like the person your child chooses to date. As long as he or she does not exhibit worrisome or bad behavior, you need to just keep your mouth shut if he or she is simply 'not your cup of tea". If your child likes this other person, you need to give them the benefit of the doubt at least initially until that other person gives you cause for concern.
3. Forget that teen pregnancy is a thing: I am all for giving kids freedom when they have the maturity level to show responsibility. If your child is dating in high school, be sure that even if you didn't have the "where babies come from" talk before now, they are well aware. Some will feel ready to experiment in this regard, while others may not. Either way, be sure they know how to prevent this and be open to providing resources if necessary. Way better than the alternative, in my opinion.
4. Let them do whatever they want: While I am largely in favor of empowering our kids to make decisions and show responsibility, it is because I have been blessed with two daughters who are mature beyond their years and have a proven track record of making good decisions. Not all kids have these skills. Realize what guidance your child needs and set limits when appropriate. There is nothing wrong with saying no, having curfews, etc. Bottom line is while they are under your roof and under 18 ( or even 18 and a little older) they are your responsibility and it is important to have some boundaries for their safety.
5. Be close-minded about same sex relationships and gender identity: I am not an expert here, and many of us may not be, but this can be a very sensitive thing in this age group and a very difficult thing for our kids to express. They may worry about acceptance among friends as well as us parents. We need to be a safe zone for our kids, and even if we had a different vision of what our child's future would look like, we need to put that aside and embrace the reality of what it is.
Best of luck navigating the high school dating scene! It is not easy, especially since there are so many other things going on during these years. Relationships may be super casual or more serious. It might just be all about the prom or homecoming dance, or maybe it's far more meaningful than that. There will be fun times and break-ups. There will be drama but also genuine young love. You will have to see what works for you as a parent during this time. Top priority is always to keep our kids safe, yet we can't hold on too tight or we will ultimately lose them.