The young man picking up his date waited patiently as the little brother ran his metal detector up and down him. Upon finishing, the brother turned to his mother and straight faced said, "all clear” and walked away. Funny in retrospect, but don’t we wish we could run our teen’s dates through a detector of sorts. It is such a huge step into a more independent world. Short of someone inventing a “safe date-o-meter” we need to take our own steps to ease our teens into the dating world, and ease or own worries.
With two teens currently in the dating game (and one who has survived it), we have come to realize how important it is to have expectations and rules already set when children hit that dating age.
Communicate with your teen what your expectations will be for her and her date. Here are some we found helpful.
Be on time to pick up your date. And always be back on time. If there is ever a problem and you will be late — call.
Be honest about whom the date is with and where you are going.
Meet the parents
Young men need to go to the door and meet their date’s parents. We have friends who only allow young men to take out their daughters after an interview. It is important to know who your teen’s friends are.
If for any reason there is a problem, they are uncomfortable or plans change, teens should feel free to call and be picked up. Safety is paramount.
Teens must be willing to respect and obey the rules established. Failure to do so should result in suspension of dating.
Once these are understood it is important to set the rules which will govern dating. Help your teens understand that the rules (and the expectations) are to help create a safe atmosphere in which to begin the dating game.
Set the age at which your family feels it is OK to begin dating. In our home, teens could begin dating at 16, but only in groups or double dates.
Teens should avoid single dates. There is no need for serious relationships while in high school. More people on the date also ease the pressure off your teen to keep a conversation and entertain.
We established a rule that our children could not go on dates consecutively with the same individual. This was to discourage pairing up and developing a serious relationship with one person. Dating for teens should be fun and more about getting to know lots of people. It is not about courting. Dating only one person causes you to miss out on opportunities to meet others. Henry Cloud in How to Get a Date Worth Keeping said, “Dating is primarily a numbers game ... people usually go through a lot of people to find good relationships.”
These rules are specific to young men. First, have a plan and communicate that plan. When you ask out a young lady let her know where you will be going, when you will be going and whom you will be going with. And let her parents know the same thing.
Second, always be a gentleman. Open her car door to let her in and to help her out. Open doors into any buildings for her as well. Take her arm in a crowd, let her go first and pull out her chair for her.
Third, be prepared. Have money for any costs. Make sure your car is clean. Be ready to make conversation and put your date at ease. Henry Cloud also said in his book, “Dating is give and take. If you only see it as taking you are not getting it.”
Dress modestly and appropriately. As the mother of sons, I appreciate when young women take the time to look nice, but also can be looked at without embarrassing their dates. You don’t want to give the wrong impression. Also, if your date asks you to go play games at a park, don’t wear heels. Neither of you will have fun.
When a car stops and the ignition is turned off, get out of the car. Don’t sit and talk in a parked car.
And lastly, if a nice young man that you know and respect asks you out, say yes. You are not marrying him. He got the courage up to ask you and plan an evening. Be respectful of that. Dating is for fun and getting to know people better. As long as you are comfortable with the group you are going with and the activity, say yes. One outing won’t harm you.
Jim Bishop said, “Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing over a million dollar Stradivarius to a gorilla.” By setting rules and expectations and knowing others do as well, we do not have to feel that way. We can be confident that our children are prepared to enter the dating game.