Dating, Ready or Not??!!!

From the moment we lay our eyes on our beautiful new edition to our family the thoughts come “Am I going to be able to take care of them; will I be able to protect them?”  We wonder will we be able to meet every need that will come into their lives as they grow from this moment through their journey to adulthood.  The answer is no.  As parents we are skilled and graced to be able to provide our children with the things that they need to be safe, to be provided for, to be approved, to be affirmed, to learn and to grow, to explore and discover, to laugh and to try again, and most important to love and to be loved.   

It appears that time flies from the time that the nurse hands you this bundle of joy until all of a sudden your child is asking you to borrow the car keys because they would like to take a trip to the mall.  You notice by the time they get to the wonderful stage of adolescence that their interest may begin to shift just a little towards noticing that the girl or boy in their class is not only cool, but kinda cute.  You may not hear too much about this new interest verbally, but if you are paying attention you will notice the subtle changes taking place in your child.  You may even be thinking something like “No!  I’m not ready for this!”  That’s okay too.  Ready or not dating will enter your lives eventually.  The mere fact that you are called a parent says that at some point you too took the plunge and dated.

What is it about dating that can cause that anxious gut punch for parents? Could it be that as a parent you are reliving your dating experiences, or even worst you are assuming that your children’s dating adventures will look like the horror stories that are plagued on social media or a movie?  If this is where you are today, here are some things that you may reflect upon.

What have you done to prepare your child for dating?  

Have you taken opportunities to share with your child age appropriate conversations about the differences between girls and boys in dating?  How about a simple conversation on what healthy friendships look like?  You will be amazed at how the power of helping your child develop good self-esteem plays a role in the health of their friendships.  As they learn to maneuver through friendships, by the time dating comes along it can make it a little easier for them to connect with someone who they have a commonality with versus a random person.  

Make no mistake every person wants to feel special, loved, and accepted.  Unfortunately, we live in a society now where social media has a loud voice in trying to tell our children what they need to do and say to receive what should first come from their parents.  Let’s not allow that to be our children’s example.

Oftentimes parents can approach the new stages of their child’s life through what I like to call “avoidance parenting”.  What I mean by this is that you avoid having these much-needed developmental conversations with your child as if not talking about them would mean that you, the parent, won’t have to deal with those topics.  The only one who pays the price for this type of approach is the child.  

I’m sure you realize that every day is a precious moment wrapped up in this thing called time that once it has passed we can’t relive that moment.  Creating a safe environment to share life lessons with your child goes a very long way; even when the conversations are uncomfortable for us as parents.

Set boundaries for your child in dating.  This is important!  Boundaries can best be embraced when you allow your child understands that they can protect them and the other person.  Teach them that every dating relationship doesn’t have to end with two people hating each other.  When they first learn to honor the dating relationship as a friendship it takes the pressure off.

Teach your child what it means to have respect for themselves and the other person that they are interested in dating.  By doing this it will help them to operate this way as their relationship progresses and how to be okay if they decide to end it.

Things that can help you have the dating conversations:

Be determined to not parent out of fear.  Don’t be afraid to share some of your dating stories with your child.  Remember always “age appropriate” conversations.  Allow your child to see that you were once their age and what it was like for you as you tried to get dating right.

Yes, let’s take a moment and remember what it was like for someone to give you that special fuzzy feeling at their age.  Ask your child during those occasions when you see their attention turning to the opposite sex some easy questions like “what is it that you like about the person”?  How long have you known the person?  Do they have any classes together or common friends?  This will allow your child to see that there is nothing wrong with having an interest in dating.  It will also continue to set up an environment wherein your child will know it’s okay to share their hearts with their parents.  

Learn the art of listening.  When we communicate, the most important aspect of this is listening.  Children have a lot to say; however most parents never get to hear any of it because we can try to provide all the answers even when our child is not asking for direction at that moment.  When we listen carefully to what our child is sharing with us, we can understand how they are feeling and help them to see the full picture.  This does not mean that you try to be your child’s friend and stop being the parent.  It simply means listen to understand first, rather than to give your response to be understood.  

Be willing to share with your child why you agree or disagree with their choice in dating.  This falls into the safe communication environment.  Keep asking questions and keep listening.  If you agree with their choice, talk about ways with your spouse wherein you can invite the person to family outings to allow you to get to know them better.  On the other hand, if you don’t agree with your child’s choice it may be wise to still look for a way to meet with the person to try to understand who they are and then be able to clearly share with your child your concerns and possible outcomes of dating this person.

I know the thought of our little one’s thinking about going beyond a friendship with someone can take us by surprise, but it does not have to cause us to panic.  

Remember you are the most important person in your child’s life and because you love your child don’t avoid these special times in their lives.  As you help them to navigate through the early stages of dating, you help them to prepare for the right dating relationship that could lead to marriage.  They will make mistakes and will need your support and even your shoulders to cry on.  You are equipped to help your child through these times.  

So never run from the chance to teach your beautiful child lessons in life.  For each of us learning how to master the dating scene made all the difference in the world.  Even if we didn’t get the good lessons from our parents, there was someone in life who loved us enough to helps to grow and become the parents that we are today.  

Hopefully these simple nuggets can help you be a little more open and prepared for this special time in your child’s life.  

Let’s get ready, dating is just around the corner!

~Mrs D.

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