Discussing Rules and Expectations for Teen Dating

Dating can serve a very important purpose. Teens learn to navigate their emotions and build relationships while they are still young and under the roof of their parents, who can support and guide them.

It’s clear to me that dating now is not how dating was when I was asked out on my first date. The boy had to come to the front door (if he honked the horn, I wasn’t allowed to go), meet my parents (shake hands confidently), confirm our plans and what my curfew would be. Any changes in plans were expected to be communicated. At the time, I was not embarrassed of my parent’s expectations at all. I knew they cared about me and wanted me to be respected and safe.

Today, the dating landscape is much different. A young adult might say they are “dating” someone, however, the majority of their communication might be through texing, social media and/or group gatherings.

Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and parents says, “The first order of business with your kids should be to ask them to define what they mean by dating. If they are referring to actually spending time alone with their date, then I have to say that around the age of 16 seems to be the magic number. And, you must make it clear what your rules and expectations are other than age.”

Whether or not 16 is the “magic number” in your family is entirely up to you, the parent. However, whatever age you choose, you should be able to address the following with your teenager.

  • Curfews — What time are they expected to be home? What are the repercussions if they are late?
  • Driving safety — Are they allowed to drive with their date? If so, how should they handle safety issues if they arise, like a driver who texts or doesn’t follow traffic laws?
  • Making good choices — Discuss issues involving sexuality and what’s appropriate for their age. Talk through possible scenarios that could occur, and what the best response would be to each.
  • Drug and alcohol use — Let them know that they can always call a trusted adult if they are uncomfortable in a situation or if someone is using drugs or alcohol.
  • Maintaining friendships while dating — Make sure teens know the importance of sustaining friendships while dating. Most romantic relationships at this age aren’t forever, so it’s important to keep close friends and maintain hobbies and extracurricular activities.
  • Keeping parents informed — If they are going to be late, what should they do? If there is a change of plans, make sure your teenager knows to get ahold of you.

Talking with your children, clarifying expectations and setting rules regarding dating can be difficult, but by having honest dialogue about the topic of dating, both parents and young adults can feel more comfortable and open with one another.

Kerry Martin is the Office Coordinator at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana.