Surviving teen dating

What is dating now? Dating changes for those of us who dated in the last century. Talking to your teen about dating. What rules work and don't work. How do you stay connected and still get sleep, when your teen is dating?

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  • Dating has changed since most mothers were teenagers. Dating used to mean, someone you knew called you up and asked you out. Now it means you are in a relationship. In an effort to understand what kids today think of as “dating,” I asked two college students, Symone Lee and Trish Dickerson, to educate me.

  • 1. How would you define dating?

  • Symone

  • : I would define dating as a relationship between two people that leads to intimacy, greater love than just "friend love," and the foundation of a marriage.

  • Trish

  • : A paired off couple or group of couples investing time in each other and participating in some form of activity to aid in bonding and building the relationship between couples.

  • 2. When you are dating someone, what are the rules about relationships with other people or going places with other people?

  • Symone

  • : The main rules are to not get too close to others of the opposite sex. Hugs are fine, but anything past that is past the line. Talking and hanging out are OK, as long as time spent with your friend of the opposite sex doesn't occur more than time spent with your significant other. But, there's an understanding between my boyfriend and I, and my friends, that I am in a committed relationship, and nothing will take away from that. My friends understand the boundaries, and my boyfriend knows I do as well.

  • Trish

  • : Make sure the other person is comfortable. No matter what. When making plans take the other person's likes, dislikes and interests into account before planning an activity. On the first few dates make sure they are group dates so you can gain a knowledge and trust with the other person. It's dangerous to be alone with someone you hardly know.

  • 3. Tell me about dating

  • :

  • Symone

  • Dating is just... fun. It doesn't have to be about spending a whole lot of money. What matters is spending time with the other person, getting to know them on a deeper level. You want to go for a walk and talk? There's a date! You want to go to dinner and a movie? There's a date! I feel like the main purpose of dating is to get closer to the one you love. And that time is SO vital for the relationship. Even if you spend every waking moment with each other, you still need that time away from cell phones, TV's, computers and other people to just be yourselves and show each other the real you. You have to have fun on a date, though. I don't call a date successful unless there are laughs, smiles, love and understanding shown throughout most of the date.

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  • Trish

  • : Dating is so much fun when done the right way. Make sure you set up your own set of personal rules and standards. Maybe even write them down or hang them up. Make them, and then no matter what, stick to your guns!

  • So after hearing from Symone and Trish, I learned that kids no longer date a variety of people at the same time. They like to go out in groups, and then when they accept an individual date with someone they usually only accept dates with people they really care about or think they could be in a relationship with.

  • Parents struggle with rules, safety and other issues when teens date. One thing has not changed, the dynamics of a power struggle. When a teen and parent want different things you may find yourself in a power struggle. Teens want to stay out late and you desperately want them home and tucked in so you can sleep and hold a job. So what can you do to avoid the power struggle?

  • Here are some tips for parents with dating teens

  • Be who you want them to be

  • . Choose a value system and live it while your teen watches. If you are out all night, or come home less than sober you are asking for the age old attack, “Why can’t I? You do!” Teens know a hypocrite when they see one and will not tolerate a double standard.

  • Bowen’s Family Systems Theory says, “If one does not see himself as part of the system, his only options are either to get others to change or to withdraw. If one sees himself as part of the system, he has a new option: to stay in contact with others and change self (Kerr and Bowen, 1988: 272-273).”

  • Essentially what that means is if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If a teen can’t get Dad to stop drinking, rather than separate from dad and in order to stay in touch with Dad, he may change himself and join Dad.

  • Talk

  • Keep your family communication two way and non-judgmental as often as possible. Develop a relationship when not in conflict.

  • Respect

  • . Know you have taught your teen well. Let them help craft schedules and plans. If he asks what time he should be home, try asking him what he thinks. After he says he can stay out all night, review your need for sleep and family schedules, and ask him again to help you decide. This gives him some ownership of the decision.

  • Talk about safety

  • . Rather than make a hundred rules, educate your teen about safety and risk. Let her attend a self-defense class and make safety a topic of discussion. Educate your teen. A good resource is: breakthecycle.org.

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  • Parent/teen dates

  • . Regularly have fun with your teen. Create opportunities for talk outside of school events, friends and family. Take a drive to his favorite restaurant and practice your good listening skills. Invest in your relationship.

  • We hope this helps you and your teen enjoy dating. We had many positive experiences during our teen dating years.

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Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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