Soon the clock will strike midnight and your teen, like Cinderella herself, will be asked on a date to the winter formal ball.
The timing of this date changes from family to family, but most American parents think it’s acceptable for children to go on a date at 15.8 years old, according to the American Family Survey. Given that Americans without kids think that age should be about 14.5, let’s just round up and say that your teen will likely head on their first date at around 15 years old.
Of course, the experience will be new for your child. And as Brittany Fryman, blogger for The Huffington Post, wrote this week, this comes with its own set of challenges and problems for parents. Teaching their youngster how to date and become a person worthy of dating can be tricky.
“Before long another someone special will claim a piece of my son’s heart, and while my place as mom will remain, my priority in his life will forever change,” she wrote. “I know that one day I will simply be there to love and support him while he loves and supports his new someone special, but before that happens I have a big job on my hands. I have to teach him to be a man worth dating, a man worth knowing and loving, a man like his daddy and his grandfathers.”
She said she hopes to teach her son to become a “man of God.” She wants him to pray every day and hear God’s voice in his private moments. She hopes that her son will uphold positive family values, like honesty, humility and strength.
On top of that, she hopes her son will be willing to take his date somewhere unique and exquisite – that he will ask questions and stand out among the pack.
“When he meets that special someone I hope that my husband and I have provided him with a strong, positive example of marriage and life-long love,” she wrote. “I pray that he loves and respects, adores and praises, hugs and kisses and remains faithful in all ways to his new #1.”
This can be a difficult task for parents, since teens aren’t always the easiest people to talk to. But experts told The Wall Street Journal that parents will want to make themselves available for listening, which will encourage teens to open up about their relationship issues. In some cases, it may also be good for parents to pull their child aside and have a serious conversation about dating. Parents will want to use their own personal experiences to help teens understand why some dating decisions are better than others, too.
To help parents provide the right information to their children, here are 10 dating tips that parents can offer their kids before they have the first date.
1. Pick someone who appreciates your inner beauty
Living coach Michelle Wisdom-Ellis offered her daughter, Jaelynn, some dating tips in a recent blog post for The Huffington Post. One of her tips included not picking a boy who didn’t appreciate her inner beauty.
“This world is full of superficial dating where teens and even men and women date because of mere looks. But looks fade, sweetie,” she wrote. “Don’t accept anything less than a boy who appreciates your inner beauty.”
2. Don’t accept name-calling
Name-calling can be a major issue for young couples, since teens are accustomed to calling each other out in a playful way. But Wisdom-Ellis told her daughter that she deserves better than someone who will treat her like this.
“You deserve more; you deserve better,” she wrote. “The songs on the radio demeaning girls are wrong, and I never want you to do anything you aren’t entirely comfortable with just to look cool.”
3. Don’t tolerate abuse or peer pressure
Teens will be new to the dating scene and unsure about what behaviors are acceptable. That’s why parents should make sure their teen knows they shouldn’t tolerate abuse – physical, emotional or mental – and never give into the pressure their partner puts on them, whether that’s related to drinking, sex or alcohol, according to Wisdom-Ellis.
4. Cheating is also a big no-no
Wisdom-Ellis said parents will want to underline the fact that cheating is one of the worst things you can do in a relationship.
“Trust me, I’ve dealt with all of these things in my past, which is why I’m telling you now so you set your standards sky high because you deserve to be treated like a queen,” she wrote.
5. No one’s perfect
High school can be a tough time for teens because they are struggling to accept who they are and trying to fit into social circles. That’s why daters should realize that perfection doesn’t exist. When they realize this, the dating scene will be more open and easier to understand for couples.
“All boys – all people, in fact – have their quirks and shortcomings. But you’ll know when you’ve found the ‘right’ boy because he will make your soul soar, not sink,” she wrote. “That’s how you’ll know he’s the ‘one.'”
6. Always tell someone how you feel ..
Parents know that time spent in high school is fleeting. One day you’re stuck in third period, the next day you’re at graduation. Rania Naim of Thought Catalog said parents will want to make sure their teens understand this so that they don’t waste time.
“Playing games and hiding your feelings will not get you the love you want or even the peace of mind you want,” Naim wrote. “Love was always something valuable, something to be cherished, something to be taken seriously, the more you disparage love, the more it will elude you.”
7. … but take your time
Just because you’ve found someone you’re interested in, it doesn’t mean you have to go full on and get married. Charles Wibbelsman, MD, told WebMD that parents should encourage their teens to remain calm when they find “love” for the first time.
“His advice: only date if you know yourself and know you want to date. If you’re not ready, it’s cool to stay single and hang out with your close friends,” according to WebMD.
8. You can talk to your parents
Like experts told WSJ, Raim suggests that parents make it clear to their children that they can come to them about dating advice. Teens who feel uncomfortable talking with their parents should realize that their dating relationship may not be worth it.
“If you can’t face your parents or explain the situation, if you can’t put a label on it for your parents or if you can’t define the relationship to your parents, then it’s clearly not right,” she wrote.
9. Know when it’s time to move on
Teens may feel the urge to keep their relationship going even when they shouldn’t. This is when parents can explain how important it is to end a relationship at the right time.
“Sometimes you have to admit it, the relationship isn’t working. Maybe the love of your life has turned mean and selfish. Maybe you realize you want something better,” according to WebMD.
10. Help them understand what relationships mean
Teens will be diving into the deep end with their first relationship. But parents can help their teens better understand their dating endeavors when they teach their teen the importance of relationships, according to the Child Development Institute.
“Talk to your teen about what a good relationship is,” the Child Development Institute wrote. “While you may think your teen already knows how to date, they probably don’t. Most of their information comes from media that’s meant to be entertaining, not realistic. Make sure your child understands what it means to be in a loving and supporting relationship. Once you’re done talking, set a good example in your relationship with your significant other.”