Parent Tips Aug.
Prepare Your Teen Before They Start Dating
by Family Honor Presenter Alison Blanchet
One of the first lessons I learned as an adult is to never go to the grocery store while I was hungry. Cramming too many errands into my schedule after work would inevitably leave me roaming the aisles at 8:30 p.m., stomach growling, putting a dozen frozen pizzas, take-out sushi and an entire chocolate cake into my cart.
Shopping while hungry and without a list was damaging to my health and finances. Days later, when I was in my right mind and looking for fruit or yogurt for breakfast, I would be dismayed to realize that I had stocked up on strawberry pop tarts but had neglected to pick up any real fruit.
Years of realizing I had nothing but chips and salsa when what I needed for dinner was chicken and salad has taught me the importance of making a list and sticking to it. I now sit in the kitchen, examine the contents of the cupboard and decide what I need to cook balanced meals for the week. Planning ahead keeps me focused on what is best for my health and budget.
When teens begin dating, their experience can be a lot like my early trips grocery shopping – lots of decisions and no preparation. There can be pressure and expectations from the person they are dating, their social circle, the media and even their date’s parents. That’s why it’s important to open the topic up for conversation long before your child begins to spend time alone with the opposite sex.
This shouldn’t just be one talk, but an ongoing conversation about expectations and boundaries. Here are some ways to begin the process:
Acknowledge positive friendships.
Does your child have a friend who brings out the best in them in some way? Encourages them to serve others or always has a compliment for their younger sibling or elderly grandparent? Point out the positive qualities you observe in their friends, and ask them how these qualities make your child feel. Same sex friends are the first step in learning what it means to be a good friend- and learning what qualities make a good spouse!
Tell stories from your own life.
What did you learn about dating from your teenage years? How did you and your spouse meet? What qualities about your spouse stood out to you and made you want to discern the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony with them? Sharing positive examples from your own life will help your child understand ideals they can strive for.
Seize teachable moments from film and literature.
Even cartoons and children’s books can have great conversation starters about relationships. At the end of a movie or book, ask “how did the characters know they loved each other?” “What did they do to get to know each other better?” “How did they show respect for each other?”
Make a list.
This doesn’t have to be an actual list, but talk to your child about attractive qualities found in the opposite sex. Use the SPICE petals as a guide and bring up spiritual, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional qualities to help them see someone as more than just “cute” or “funny”.
Dating can be a tough subject to talk about, but it’s never too soon to begin the conversation! Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, look for opportunities and don’t give up. Parents, you are the greatest influence when it comes to your child’s decisions, and dating is no exception!