When Your Teen Starts To Date Seriously

Whether parents like it or not, teens will eventually want to date.

Teenage couple laughing
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No matter how prepared a parent thinks he or she is, when a teenager wants to start dating, it can be a scary issue to deal with. It's important to try to prepare your teen to deal with all the consequences of dating, including STDs, unwanted pregnancy and date rape. But the first step is to set a road map to follow when your teen wants to start dating seriously.

First, don't assume because your son or daughter has reached a certain age that they're ready to date, or that they should be allowed to.

You know your teen's maturity level, and every potential dating situation should be handled on a case-by-case basis. For instance, just because your daughter was allowed to go on a date with a boy who drives a car doesn't mean she'll be allowed to go out with any boy who drives a car. And just because your son's friends all have steady girlfriends doesn't mean he's necessarily ready to start dating one-on-one himself.

A list of simple rules should be clearly spelled out with your teenager before any dating will be allowed. Violation of these rules should have consequences for future dating privileges. And that's how parents need to view dating by young teenagers: As a privilege, which has to be earned and respected.

Here are a few suggestions for basic dating rules for your teenager:

Don't let your teen out the door before you've had a chance to meet the person they'll be going out with. This doesn't mean your daughter gets to introduce her date when he comes to pick her up, then bolt out the door.

If he wants the privilege of dating your child, he needs to come in and meet mom and/or dad for a few minutes first.

If your teen doesn't have their own cell phone, now is a good time to consider getting one for them. Put them on a family plan, and make it clear you reserve the right to review the contents of their phone at any time since you're paying the bills.

Your teen needs to let you know where they'll be at all times. If plans change, they need to let you know right away so you can grant approval. If you call your teen on their cell phone during their date (and try to avoid doing that too frequently), they must answer or text you a reply.

Set a curfew and the consequences of breaking it before the date begins. Make sure both your child and their date knows what time curfew is, and find out what time the date's curfew is. The curfew can vary by date and occasion, but needs to be clear every time before your child leaves the house.

If your child is in a situation where there are drugs or alcohol, or they do not feel safe, make sure there is a plan for picking them up if they need to get out of a dangerous situation. Emphasize that they can call you any time, and you would prefer to come get them from an out-of-control party than have to bail them out of jail, or worse.

The main point with establishing rules for dating is to keep the lines of communication open.

Explain your child why the rules are what they are, and your feelings about the concepts of dating. If appropriate, share an anecdote behind your own dating experiences, to illustrate why you feel strongly about curfew, for instance. Even though they may not like the rules, it's good for teens to understand the reasons behind them.

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