It does not matter how you feel about your child and romance you are probably not going to be ready for them to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. That time will be here before you know it and as the parent you have the privilege of setting the tone and guiding your young person through this exciting time in their young life. It just recently happened to us; our 15 year old daughter had her first boyfriend. As much as you know the time is coming, it takes your breath away when it does happen.
Some tips may help you and your child navigate this milestone and draw even closer in your relationship.
1. You first need to admit that this day will come and prepare for it, long before it gets here. Before your young person jumps into the romance pool, you will have had the chance to set the platform for their romantic relationships. Help them make friends of sexes, modeling the standards of your family and labeling the good qualities in the friends they bring home. If your family is socially responsible, values faith and education then help your kids appreciate those qualities in themselves. Liking themselves and knowing where they stand, before they fall into a romance gives them a good framework for healthy relationships.
2. When your child comes home with the spark of romance in their eyes, talking about the person she “likes” or “loves” be positive. This is not the time to ridicule your child, and tell them they are too young or make fun of the object of their affection. Instead, celebrate with your young person that they can know such a wonderful person and share such exciting feelings. This will keep you in the loop, and you will continue to have open lines of communication. If your ten year old tells you she is “going out” with the boy down the block, do not just jump in and declare “You are not going anywhere!” but instead get a feel for what this means to her. It might mean sitting on the bus together.
3. When your child is old enough to actually be dating, keep informed. Ask that they tell you where they are going, and with whom, and when to expect them back. You can foster this respect for many years before you have a child who is dating in two ways. First of all, you should do the same thing. It is a matter of respect and security. “I am going to Wal Mart with the neighbor, and I should be back at 2:00 pm” is just a common courtesy. You can then ask them as they grow up to do the same thing. “Mom, if it is okay, I am going to play soccer at the park with Bill. I will be back for supper.” If your child has that habit, you can expect in the dating field as well.
I can tell you from our very recent experience that our daughter did come home and actually talk to us about the little boy that asked her out… she did this before telling him yes. We asked all of our questions, who is he, what do you know about him, how old is he, what kind of grades does he get and is he involved in any school activities. Most of the questions we had she did not have the answer to. So we told her that these are things she should really know before telling him yes.
4. Before the “first date” practice with your child so they are comfortable. Discuss proper social behavior, and answer any questions that might come up, from tipping to drinking and everything in between. Be a listener. Most young people have access to cell phones, let your child know that you are always just a phone call away, and will not judge them for calling you.
I have to admit that this is really a tip that we overlooked. We assumed that based on the way our daughter was raised she would know how to act. Well, high school apparently overrides many of lessons they are taught throughout their early life. She did have this boy come over, we did meet him… I was shocked at how close they sat to each other, the fact that they cuddled on the couch. Bare with me here, they had only been "dating" for a week! When I asked her about the way she was with him her response, "That's how I thought couples acted." When I asked her where in the world she got that idea, "That is what the couples at school do."
I had to explain to her that she and this boy had only been dating for a week. That was not appropriate behavior for a relationship so young or with someone she barely knew.
5. We enjoy giving gifts to people we love, so do our children. Encourage them to gift appropriately. A twelve year old probably should not be giving jewelry, and clothing items or other intimate and expensive gifts. Posters and music are better choices, as are other hobby items. These gifts do not make the relationship money or body oriented.
6. Parents need to be aware of the amount of time and energy being put into the romance. If your child begins to neglect school and other previously enjoyed activities it is probably too intense. Talk with them about keeping balance, and if necessary, impose limits.
7. Most first romances do not lead to marriage. There are often breakups and heartache. Be there, continuing to communicate, and help your teen see that this is not the end of their world, but is a chance to grow and become a caring adult. Celebrate this stage of their growing up.
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