Talking About Dating With Your Teenager…

Frustrated Parent (11-2-09)

Talking About Dating With Your Teenager:

Some Tips to Take the Emotion Out Of The Discussion!

Recently, a parent of a 7th grader asked me for some tips on how to talk about dating with her son. She had some positive results, namely that her son felt very honored to have his opinions/views brought into the discussion. They are still on the long journey of coming to a consensus, but I just thought it would be helpful for me to share with you how she and her son began talking about dating.

Define Terms: What do each of you (student & parent) mean when you say that two people are “dating”? What are the characteristics of a “dating” relationship? Make sure each other can accurately state the other’s definition out loud. Write each other’s views down, and try and find the areas where you agree. Can you come to any compromises where you disagree?

Clarify Expectations: What privileges and/or rights do each of you (student & parent) believe that two people who are dating should have? E.G. Talking on the phone, texting, IMing: how much time per day & until what time each day?; Hanging out with each other outside of school: how often each week, with or without other friends, where, for how long, etc.? Once expectations are agreed upon, any changes must be parentally approved (like amending the U.S. Constitution).

Why Do You Want to Date?: Prayerfully and thoughtfully take some time to think about why you (student) want to date—this is important. If we have poor motives/reasons for doing something good, oftentimes we should not do that good thing. For example, Jesus teaches that we should not do good deeds if we are only doing them to get attention or popularity (Matthew 6:1-5). Furthermore, certain actions are good to do only if they are done for the benefit of others. For example, fire fighters climb ladders as tall as 100 ft., but they do so only to save a person’s life. They would never be allowed to simply “play” on a ladder that tall; to do so would be foolish and dangerous. So the question is, are you dating only for what you can get out of it—for play, popularity, to not feel lonely, etc?

More About “WHY?”: What can’t you (student) do with your potential girlfriend that you can only do if you are dating? In other words, even if you like someone, why date? Why not just be a close friend? What will the term “dating” or what will the title of “boyfriend/girlfriend” enable you to do/experience? Again, this might seem like a strange question, but it is helpful for figuring out what we are hoping to get out of dating.

Here are some things to keep in mind about dating:

Guaranteed Pain: You will almost certainly eventually break up with this person. Very few people who date in high school—and almost none who date in Middle School—wind up getting married. So there is a very high chance that you will experience the terrible pain of breaking up. Would you eat a food that had a 99% chance of making you sick & causing you to throw up? Would you ask someone you care about to eat that same food with you?

Likely Loss of a Friend: Once you break up, there is a very high chance that you will not be friends with your ex any more. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens a majority of the time. Are you willing to trade years of friendship for weeks or months of dating? And what about the awkwardness of your ex wanting to continue to hang with your other friends? This often causes your friends to choose between you or your ex. In fact, some students stop going to their local church’s youth group because their ex continues to attend. How sad is that?

Pressure to Get Physical: Oftentimes guys pressure a guy friend to get more and more physical (sexual) with his girlfriend the longer the relationship goes on. This pressure can be very difficult to withstand.

Big Responsibility: Being a teenager is difficult enough with the demands of schoolwork, job, parent relationship, athletics, youth group attendance, peer relationships, etc. Adding a girlfriend is a huge responsibility and time/emotional commitment.

Tastes Change Quickly: Oftentimes, within a group of friends, teenagers can go from liking one person to another in a matter of weeks or even days. Since that is scientifically true due to changing hormones, what is the point of dating someone?

Dating Should Lead to Marriage: The main goal of dating is to find a spouse, a life-partner with whom to share your entire life with (remember, God made Adam and saw “that it was not good for the man to be alone” Genesis 2:18 NIV). Since most teenagers do not marry the person they date in high school or Middle School, what is the purpose of purposeless/idle dating?

Often Distracts Us from God: Does the person you want to date have a growing, vibrant friendship with Jesus? Will he/she help you grow closer to god, or will he/she cause you to spend less time with Him? Will he/she help you to honor God, or tempt you to dishonor Him?

Do You Still Want to Date? Why? Why not?

I hope this is helpful, my friends…

One last point: please do not use these points as “ammunition” to “win the argument” or to “prove your point.” These points are a few helpful guidelines for you and your family to discuss—with God and with each other—dating from a bigger perspective. Remember, with teenagers the goal is less to “tell them the right answer” and more to teach them how to figure out God’s opinion for their lives themselves…

Praying for us all…