Teaching and equipping teenagers for dating relationships is an overlooked element of the struggles and triumphs of a teenager’s ever-changing emotions. Dating relationships become a huge milestone and often a rite of passage for a teenager in their social circles. As a child enters adolescence, they quickly become aware of the opposite sex, develop crushes, and then suddenly wonder when each milestone related to dating relationships will be reached.
- Their first crush.
- Their first girlfriend or boyfriend.
- The first time they get butterflies.
- The first time they get asked out on a date.
- Their first rejection.
- The first time they do not reciprocate feelings for someone else.
How does one navigate these adolescent milestones? How does a parent support their child while teaching them about doing things God’s way rather than what the world deems normal and popular?
Teaching and equipping teenagers about healthy dating and platonic relationships becomes the foundation for what they look for in their future spouse and friendships. Healthy versus unhealthy dating relationships can depict what kind of baggage they bring into their marriage.
It is important that parents and family members take an active approach rather than a passive one. An active approach means having conversations, teaching, praying for, equipping, and making oneself available to the teenager as he or she has questions. A passive approach often means letting the teenager fend for himself or herself and try to figure things out on his or her own, which can be a very slippery slope.
Tips to help your teenager navigate dating relationships.
Here are a few things to consider as you help your teenager navigate dating relationships:
1. Talk about standards and expectations.What age do you think is appropriate for dating? How do you feel about kissing? It is important to talk about all aspects of a relationship with your adolescent, including physical, emotional, and spiritual. Does this person make them squash their values or stick to them? Do they respect authority or encourage them to ignore authority figures? Does this person pursue the things of God or the things of this world?
If you are looking for a guide of standards, God’s Word talks about the qualities that should be pursued. Here are several to discuss with your teen:
So, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:22, ESV
Talk with your teen about practical ways to flee youthful passions and pursue godly virtues.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33, ESV
Help your teen think through how his or her behaviors can be influenced by peers in positive and negative ways.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14, ESV
Talk with your teen about the importance of shared values with dating partners, and the potential pitfalls of missionary dating.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18, ESV
It’s essential to talk about sexual purity with your teen so you become a trusted source of information. Be sure to tell your teen that no topic is off limits, and you will always show him or her grace if he or she makes mistakes in this area.
2. Set a curfew.
It is important to discuss whatever guidelines you have with your child before he or she goes out with friends just to hang out or when he or she begins dating. Parents should discuss in detail what time curfew should be, what places are off limits, and even discuss a few positive options for dating or attending social events with friends.
Avoid entering the discussion like it is a laundry list of do not’s. Instead, let your teen join in the conversation and ask what he or she considers to be good options. You can hold healthy, positive conversations with your teen on this subject.
3. Encourage your teen to get to know the parents of his or her dating partner.
If you really want to get to know someone, get to know them around their family. Watch how he or she interacts. Watch how he or she treats his or her parents and siblings. Take the time to get to know the other person’s family. This is often the unfiltered and real version of who someone is and how he or she might act in the future once his or her polite mask comes off.
4. Encourage group dates as your teen gets to know someone.
Group dates are a great option as they begin to get to know the other person. It is a good reminder that teenagers are not quite ready for marriage yet, so they can focus more on friendships than romance.
5. Invite your teen’s dating partner over for dinner.
It is important that you make yourself available for your child and the person in whom he or she is interested. This child could be from a broken home and be looking for a healthy example of family relationships. He or she might need you to invest in him or her and encourage him or her to dream big dreams and to run to God before the things of this world. You never know what someone is going through, and you may be just the person he or she needs for support.
6. Encourage check-in text messages.
Encourage your child to check-in with you, whether he or she is out with friends or on a first date. This way, you are aware of his or her whereabouts for safety purposes and it offers more accountability.
7. Try to open your home when you can.
Rather than teenagers driving around and trying to come up with things to do, it can be beneficial to open your home to your teen and his or her dating partner. This helps them stay out of trouble, hang out if they do not have a lot of money for dates and activities, and eases your mind about their safety. Not only do you know your child is safe, it offers your family the opportunity to get to know your child’s dating partner.
8. Raise your child to date with marriage in mind.
Ask your child if the person he or she has a crush on would be someone he or she might consider marrying one day. Help your teen reflect and make a list of the qualities he or she would like in his or her future spouse. Ask if your teen is looking for someone who loves Jesus, works hard, values commitment, has good intentions, treats him or her well, and pursues honest conversations.
9. Offer your support and pray over your child.
Pray for your teen and over your teen as he or she makes decisions about dating relationships. Let your child know that his or her heart is one of the most important things to you. Talk to your teen about the differences between lust, infatuation, and love. Discuss relationship abuse and red flags for which he or she should look, such as control, manipulation, and threats.
10. Trust your teen, but do not ignore warning signs.
It can be difficult to navigate when to trust your teen and when to ask questions. Trying to sneak through his or her text messages might not be the best way to establish trust. However, it is important not to ignore any sudden red flags. If you suspect your teen might have endured any relationship abuse, speak up. Ask questions. Schedule a counseling session. Let them know that you are a safe place and want to help.
11. It’s okay if you raise your teen to be “old school.”
In a world that is so focused on short-term fulfillment, raise your teen to be more old-fashioned. Raise your children to pursue someone’s heart over his or her body. Arthur Meintjes said it wisely, “Dating philosophy: Run as fast as you can toward God, and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself!”
Teen counseling can be beneficial so your teen can build a strong and healthy sense of self that will prepare him or her for the journey ahead. If your teen is struggling with relationship trauma, abuse, or just needs a safe place to establish healthy boundaries, individual and family counseling are great options.
The counselors at our office are committed to helping your teen address any red flags and determine what healthy relationships look like and how they can be pursued.
If you need support as you try to help your teen develop healthy relationship and dating habits, you can meet with a counselor that can help you navigate your parenting concerns. Reach out today for the help you need.
“Coffee”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Pinkies”, Courtesy of Gift Habeshaw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart Hands”, Courtesy of Saiph Muhammad, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cuddling on the Bench”, Courtesy of Nong V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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