Inside: I’m not sure how we got here this fast, but here is what I want my teen daughters to know about dating.
“Wow, wait until they start dating,” kind strangers would say to me when I took my three little girls out anywhere.
“Hope Dad has a shotgun handy.”
“I’d lock them up until they are 25!”
“Good luck with that….”
Where ever I went, someone commented on the challenging times that lay ahead.
But it was way ahead. Years.
And then I blinked.
Now I’m looking into the eyes of two teenager girls and one tween with legs down to there, long flowing locks, and faces that look more like young women than the babies I used to hold on my hip.
We are talking about what healthy relationships look like and driving and curfews, and I think to myself, “I am so not ready.”
But it doesn’t matter, because they are, and I want them to know the expectations up front.
As a family, we decided long ago that there will be no serious dating until high school, but that time between a long time ago and now went so fast.
Now, I only have one more year until we potentially enter an entirely new parenting realm. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my teenage girls to know about dating.
I worry about my teenage daughters entering the dating world.
It’s not the same as when I was a teenager.
Way back then, we did still actually, you know, go on dates. The kind of dates where one person asked you out and you went somewhere, just the two of you.
I remember going to a movie theater and making out in a back corner or sneaking kisses in an empty hallway at a school dance. I remember crushes and first dates and the rush of emotions you felt when you found out that someone actually liked you.
Now, love interests are initiated by texting or tagging or swiping.
It seems like one-on-one interaction is less and kids go out in herds for group dates, until at some point pairs start forming and physical expectations that were discussed online are now front and center.
What hasn’t seemed to change, however, is the raging hormones or the peer pressure or the complexity in teen romance.
I don’t pretend that I understand what it’s like to be a teen in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have advice to share with my three daughters. I’m not going to call them dating rules per se, but maybe a few guidelines I’m recommending as someone who dated in the Stone Ages.
After much consideration, here was what I came up with. I’ve already started talking with my teens and tween about dating and I’m just hoping some of it sinks in some way, somehow….
Here’s What I Want My Teenage Daughters To Know About Dating
Sometimes you will date someone who is older, has more experience, or may seem more popular than you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to catch up on his terms. Anyone who wants to date you conditionally – for sex, on drugs or alcohol, as a conquest – is in the relationship for the wrong reasons. And if they threaten to break up if you don’t comply? Then you have your answer. Remember, you always have a choice. You can never go back in time, but you can always wait until tomorrow.
Talk about how you feel about sex, parties, drugs, and other important issues. Set physical boundaries so there are no questions about where you stand. Take the time to understand how you feel, both physically and emotionally. Do you feel safe? Cared for? Nervous? Scared? Take all those feelings seriously. It may feel awkward, but if you can’t discuss these things with a partner, you definitely shouldn’t be doing them.
Know your value.
Your self-worth can never be measured in likes or emojis. It won’t be in your GPA or your weight. And it will never be found in the status of someone you date. Before you step out the door on the arm of someone else, know that you can stand on your own two feet. It’s hard not to feel unworthy or good enough when someone rejects you, but remember that someone else’s feelings should not dictate the way you feel about yourself. Never forget, you deserve the best. Your romantic partner should always lift you up, not crush your self-esteem.
That means the only time things should move forward in a relationship is with your consent, and you should never push someone else to do anything without theirs. If you feel pressured or threatened, these are red flags that you want to take seriously as it could lead to sexual abuse or violence.
When you fall in love, sometimes you want to shout it to the world; but, relationships are hard, and not everyone will be looking out for your best interest. Resist the urge to document every facet of your relationship online, and never discuss your feelings in the comments section for the world to see. Your peers or your smartphone should not be a third wheel in your relationship. Romantic interests may come and go, but social media posts can live forever. If your relationship is about the two of you, there’s no reason to invite the rest of the world into it.
Teen dating should be fun.
Romantic relationships, like any good friendship, should be about getting to know each other, what you like and don’t like, your hobbies, and your friends and family. You don’t have to agree on everything, but shared interests – or the willingness to try – is an excellent indicator that you may be compatible. Sometimes once you get to know the person you’ve had an infatuation with, you realize that perhaps your imagination was a little bit better than the real thing. On the flip side, if you find yourself sneaking around, embarrassed about your passions and priorities, or pretending to be something you are not, you may not be with the right person or have the maturity level for a romantic partner. It shouldn’t be complicated.
And Dating should be IRL.
I understand that it’s easier to get a relationship going in today’s world by texting, but to know someone – really know someone – you have to talk, look into their eyes, hear their words. Sexting is not romance. While it can be thrilling, it also can be demeaning, abusive, and unlawful. If you do not have a physical and emotional connection in real life, it’s time to move on.
The bravest thing you can ever do is share your heart with another person. There will be times when you get rejected, and other times when you don’t want to pursue the relationship. Always be kind. You don’t have to go out with someone just to be nice, but you should be gentle and honest when you say no.
There is no greater feeling than love, and nothing more crushing than heartbreak. Learning to survive the roller coaster ride of relationships is part of growing up. It’s worth the risk of putting yourself out there as long as you are also comfortable with being alone.
But I think the thing I want my teenage daughters to know more than anything is to remember who loved you first. I know that one day someone will capture your heart completely, but never forget that you always have a loving place with your family.
Romantic love can be fleeting, but there isn’t a thing you could do to stop me from loving you.