Real Talk

5 Things You Need to Know About Navigating Your Teen’s Dating Life

We may have been our kids’ favorite person but once they turn into teens and they start dating, what’s can we, as parents, do?

As long as our kids are still not in their teens, we are the centers of their universe. They tag along with us wherever we want to go—from movie nights together to eating out, shopping, and more. There’s just so many fun things to do!

When they become teens, that slowly changes. They hole up in their rooms, talking with friends or simply fiddling on their phones—closed off from everyone, even you. But this is also a time when our teens start dating!

Here’s how to navigate the new chapter of your teen’s romantic relationship.

Teenagers dating

1. Take a deep breath. Take several if you need to.

We know it’s a lot. This is your baby after all. But don’t get too crazy or excited because it’s not like they’re headed for the altar. Your reaction now will set the tone for future conversations you’re going to have with your teen. Dating is just one of those many tough conversations that we’re going to have. Overreacting can discourage them because now they’ll feel that they’ll have to manage our feelings to protect their own.

2. Have an honest, heart-to-heart talk with your child.

Whether you found out accidentally or your child told you that he/she is in a relationship, it’s always good to acknowledge our teens’ feelings for their persons. Making demands and saying things like “You’re too young, you can’t be in a relationship,” and “Stop talking to this person immediately or else,” will only strain your relationship with them because we’re fighting for control.

Instead, ask them to share their story with you. You can ask them about what qualities of the other person they were drawn to, show them that you are genuinely interested, and keep an open mind. Doing so will makes them feel supported which is what they’ll need if things go south. This is one time you want to earn their trust and keep it. Otherwise, they will never tell you anything again.

For most parents, they set a timeline as to when their kids can start dating. Aside from age, we must also consider the emotional maturity of our child. Are they ready to be in a relationship? This is a good time to talk about things like commitment, etc.

3. Avoid highlighting all the negative or bad things that can go wrong.

The heartbreaks, the fights, the pain of breakups — those are all things you can bring up as an attempt to scare them off. But if they do believe you, it now becomes part of their belief system. And if those things don’t scare them off now, it will surely make them cynical. They’ll then use those as a basis on whether or not to even get into a relationship.

However, the opposite can also happen wherein they become even more determined to achieve that “happy ending.” By insinuating that they are headed for splits-ville, they are more prone to performing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because they’re too busy worrying about the things that will disrupt their happy ending, they won’t experience the relationship and thus, everything heads south by itself!

Teens are at a stage wherein they highly value intimate or deep conversations, even if they don’t show it. These intimate or deep conversations become their building blocks also for their own identities. They see themselves as a result of all the interactions they’ve gone through and more bad reactions mean a worse self-image.

With that in mind, instead of enumerating the “what ifs”, highlight their friendship. Relationships between 2 young adults often begin with them being friends or classmates. You can remind your child that since they’re young and if things don’t work out, they might be better off as friends.

4. Don’t pry or force them to tell you things.

Especially when you see that your child is not willing to talk or share much, don’t get frustrated. Instead, show them that you understand and that you are willing to listen. And when they do tell you things, thank them for doing so. It makes them feel they can trust you and for us, it allows us to follow their pace better because now, we have more information to work with.

And if you’re seriously considering checking their messages, think again. Unless you feel in your gut that your child is in real danger, we wouldn’t advise you to hijack their phones to pry. You have to trust that you have raised your child thus far to have a good head on his or her shoulders.

5. Get to know the significant other.

If you’ve never met their boyfriend or girlfriend, it might be a good idea to invite them to a meal at a restaurant. Not to interrogate them, but to simply get to know them. Maybe you’ll see why your child got attracted to them in the first place.

If you already know the “SO” because they were friends with your child, get to know them a little better. Because this time, it’s from a different light — they’re learning more about each other and themselves. But whatever the case may be, making them feel relaxed and welcome will also show that there is something you both share and that’s love and support for your child or in their case, their SO.

Although you’ll want to know their love story or share your experiences, pushing that boundary may send the message that you don’t trust them and by association — your child. Your actions will say a lot more about you than about them. And remember, your child is watching and he/she will remember how you treated the person they care about.

Family with teenager dating

Teens and dating isn’t something easy to get over but it’s worth talking about.

Dealing with teenagers can be difficult enough. But once they start dating, all bets are off. This is unchartered territory and the truth is, you can’t keep your kids locked up until they’re 21. This is all a part of growing up. They have feelings, and raging hormones, their heads are probably in the clouds thinking they’ve met their soulmate.

Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Respect them for how they are feeling and don’t judge them for it because let’s be honest: we were once in their shoes too. We also don’t want our teens to hide their relationship from us because if things fall apart, it can be terribly isolating.

Especially when they are confused about their feelings or when they get into a fight. If you see them crying or not themselves, don’t pry or jump to conclusions. Instead, remind them that they’ll be okay, that you’re there if they want to talk, and that you love them.

As parents, it’s up to us to keep an open mind and to keep things in check. The key is to get your kids to be comfortable enough to tell you things. While they won’t tell you everything overnight, the goal is for them to tell you things that do matter.

More about teens?

When Parents Should Talk to Their Teens About Dating
5 Lessons Kids and Teens Can Learn From the Film GomBurZa
10 Relatable Teen Moments from Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]