As a parent, the thought of your son or daughter beginning dating has the potential of sending chills down your spine; you’re sending them off into an experience over which you have no control! How best can we continue to care for our children as they step into adolescence?
Several considerations are important. First and foundational to navigating this time is to have a relationship with your budding adolescent. The choices they make while away from you is based on this relationship. Secondly, keep communication open by practicing empathic listening. This means checking yourself when you find you are focusing solely on your own agenda. Third, know your adolescent’s friends. Even if your child isn’t as open as hoped for, knowing their friends allows a wider view of what is happening in their lives.
I recommend that your child first explore relationship in group settings. This is very natural and safer. The adolescent is preparing for responsible behavior later.
In general I recommend that anyone under 16 who wants to date needs to go out in a group. After that age, and if your child seems ready, I would give them permission to go out paired.
Then it is best to graduate to supervised dating. By this I mean that an adult drives the kids to and from their destination. Before the date, however, get to know the prospective date. Call their parents, especially if they are under 16. Making your presence known offers another safeguard for your child.
Finally, appreciate the cellphone. Cell phones make it easy for your child to check in with you and for you to call as well. However, too much hovering will only result in your child rebelling. It is equally important to give your child space to experience their growth. That for the parent requires patience and trust.