Teenage Dating 

If you thought it was a challenge raising a toddler; compared to raising a dating teenager raising a toddler was a piece of cake.  You want to determine what you can do to help your teenager stay safe while dating.  You know that if you come on too strong with your teenager he or she will tune you out.  Remember, your teen cannot process the fact that you were once a teen yourself and that you have already been through many of the dating pitfalls. 

As a parent, you worry about the possibility of your teen coming into contact with problems such as drugs, alcohol, date rape, violence, etc. It may be awkward for you and for your teen to have some of the necessary discussions, but they just might help to keep the teen safe. 

Start talking with your child even before he or she is old enough to date. Make the child aware of the age at which you think it is appropriate to start dating.  Let him know where he will be allowed to go on a date and with whom. 

When your teen starts dating he needs to have a curfew.  Not only does your teen need to be aware of the time for the curfew the date needs to be aware of the deadline time too.  Make sure your teen knows the consequences he will suffer if he is not in by curfew time or has not called you to explain why he is going to have a problem meeting his deadline.  Consequences of missing curfew may be grounding for a week or so, loss of a cell phone for a few days, no driving the car for a few days – whatever consequence seems appropriate to you. 

It might be a good idea to ease your teen into the dating scene slowly by suggesting group dates as the first step.  This way your teen can have fun with friends, feel a little independent, yet still have a support system in place. 

You will probably feel uncomfortable talking with your teen about things like addiction, abuse, and sex, but the conversation is a necessary one.  Your teen needs to know about sex and if you don’t have this talk with him then his friends will give him the information.  Problem is, often the friends don’t really know what they are talking about.  It’s better for the correct information to come from you, isn’t it? 

Your teen needs to know that there is more than one kind of abuse.  Many teens think abuse needs to be physical, but this is not the case.  In addition to physical abuse there is sexual abuse and verbal abuse.  Verbal abuse is probably the most prevalent type and it is probably the one where the warning signs are often missed. 

Some abusers try to keep their victim in line by threatening to tarnish the victim’s reputation.  Since teens feel it is important to fit in this threat is real to them.  Some abusers try to isolate their victim by forcing them to cut ties with friends and family.  It’s easier to victimize someone if they don’t have a support network. 

If your child starts having bruises and seem to be hurt a lot the teen may say he has fallen or is clumsy, however, these may be signs of physical abuse. 

It may be a sign of a problem if your teen’s grades start to slip, if he does not seem interested in the hobbies and sports he used to enjoy, or if he is more quiet and withdrawn than normal. 

No parent wants to think their son or daughter is being mistreated by anyone.  No parent wants to see their teen unhappy.  Try to keep the lines of communication with your teen open.  Teach your teen to trust his instincts.  Make sure your teen knows that he can come to you no matter what and that you love him unconditionally.