MY TEENAGER STARTED DATING!
I have raised two children: Chase, 25 years old, and Jadyn, 16. Like all parents I have taught these two everything from being brave enough to let go of the side of the couch and take their first steps, to learning to recite their abc’s followed by spelling their name. So when I consider that their teenage years are a period of intense maturity, not only physically but emotionally, it's understandable that we, as parents, should teach our children how to date.
I know every teenager is different—there are early bloomers, late arrivers, and those whose intellect sometimes surpasses my own, but I believe slow and steady growers win the race! In other words, there’s a wide range of what we need to consider when raising a child, but teenagers are so full of energy, it’s best we don’t let them figure out “dating” without some guidance.
When does this start? Well, that’s a good question. I know dating is a desire every teenager has at some point, but are they mature enough for such a commitment? No! However, my gut tells me we don’t get to decide this part of life for them. As teenagers, they get to make some adult decisions.More importantly, we should be ready to talk with them about healthy relationships.
I spent years preparing my son for his first girlfriend and tried to do all the “right” things: plenty of mother-son time together without his father, constant respect for his little sister, a slow pace and patient approach to life. I thought it was hard then to trust that he was old enough to make his own decisions when it came to sharing his time with someone else, but now that its my daughter, it’s a whole other story.
I’m writing this blog because … you guessed it …she started dating. I thought to myself, “How can I stop this? I want to go back to picking out her clothes and fixing her hair in a big, matching bow, and then reminding her to go brush her teeth.” But, she’s not a little girl anymore. Last year she turned sixteen, and honestly, I found myself just as interested as she was in this teenage boy she had discovered at the mall.
I was excited for her. I wanted to know what he looked like … who exactly did she find handsome? I wanted to know all about him: who is his family, where does he go to school, how old is he, does he drive, and has he ever dated before? You get my point. I wanted to know did she actually listen to all the relationship advice she had heard over the years from the time she was 12 or 13, and what was it she saw in him that made her decide she was ready to date?
Let’s cut to the chase. After two months of Snapchats, social media interaction, and hundreds of text messages exchanged, finally, they met face-to-face. I was nervous. She was nervous. He was scared to death. Might I add how brave of him it was to show up, pick her up, knock on a door he had to Google to get to, and walk in this place. Right then, I realized his parents must be thinking the same as me, and wondering, How did this happen so fast?
The inevitable came and they found themselves deciding to be exclusive, and I found myself sitting down with them at the kitchen table providing a safe and secure base for them to communicate with me openly about their relationship and to discuss a few things … things like what a healthy relationship feels like and how much fun dating should be. I wanted them to know discovering each other as best friends is most important, and should something the other person says or does hurt the other’s feelings to discuss it with one another. Healthy boundaries also came into the conversation.
Now, while I know most of you are thinking sexual boundaries, I did not discuss this topic with them because I don’t feel like the “sex talk” should take place the moment your teen starts to date. Furthermore, dating isn’t for sex! Dating is for finding a healthy relationship. So, we set some boundaries and discussed how hard it would be to maintain their prior commitments and good grades if they continued to talk on the phone every night till 3:00 in the morning. We went over everything from commitment to accountability, and I made sure they understood what an open line of communication is because “it’s a whole lot easier to break up after 6 months than it is 3 years.”
From the get-go we set some dating rules because it’s important that a parent still teach his or her teenager about responsibility. I believe we should continue during this time to help teens think about expectations and values in their relationships, and learn how to be selfless and care for another person’s feelings. This can lead to smart relationships, and learning from their parents “how to be in a healthy relationship” should start at home.
At this point, I won’t even fool you—I had to Google “healthy dating tips for teens” myself.
Am I proud of my daughter? Yes! She made one of the best decisions of her life thus far, and I couldn’t have picked a more equally yoked young man for her to spend some extra time with. I have grown to love him like he’s my own, which sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be respecting Jadyn’s choice and honoring my own advice had I not listened to her and given myself the opportunity to meet him. I also understand now why parents try to prolong their children dating for as long as they can and hope their children stay single. Dating is a risk that we understand all too well, and while I’d never forget, Chad, my first “love,” I was also heartbroken when we stopped dating and the relationship ended. Looking back, I learned a lot, though, and while the pain seemed greater than the promise, my first dating experience was one of the most memorable of my life. So, while I often wish my daughter would ask me to stop cleaning the house so I could watch her perform the next song she wrote, using the living room as her stage, and have me as her whole audience applauding her success, I suppose it’s time to accept that she’s not a little girl anymore and support her decision to take a chance at what the world has to offer her … love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Also known as “celebrity hairstylist StacyK,” the 26-year veteran in the beauty business has authored two books: “Be Beautiful Being You”and “The Ten Character Commitments.” She is a part of the Women’s Leadership Movement, Toyota's “Women That Soar” Community Outreach recipient, and one of the 100 World Changers recently selected for her intent on moving the world forward with her new branding concept created for sexual abuse survivors. Stacy is the founder of The Justus Love Corporation. It is an American multimedia company helping those on a mission to stop sexual abuse by sharing their story, and exposing sexual abuse suppression. The corporation unites “informative, inspirational individuals” with lifestyle and leadership goals. Its philosophy remains: “Our Words Give Life!”