When your teen first ventures onto the dating scene, encourage them to go out in small groups, either with another couple or with friends. It will take the pressure off the situation and can ease your teen into listening to their gut before they're out on their own. April Masini, founder of the critically acclaimed Ask April advice column, explains why dating in groups is important: "Five, six, seven and eight kids are a lot more fun. There's less pressure to be a couple. If the kids really like each other, this is a more age-appropriate way to encourage a friendship or budding romance."
Having open communication with your teen is important in general, but when they start dating, it's essential they know they can talk to you — about anything. Dr. David Simonsen, Ph.D., is a family psychologist and marriage and family therapist. He explains that teens "need to know they can come to you with questions or that you will come when they feel unsafe. Providing clear and concise boundaries about expectations is important. Teens need help navigating the dating years, and parents are placed in a key place to help teens deal with the challenges that come with dating."
Teens like to have independence, but when they're out on a date with just one person, you need to know who that person is and where your teen is going with them for safety reasons. Making this a guideline for allowing them to go on a date can offer a sense of security to both of you. Tracy Vega, co-founder of Simple Self-defense for Women, advises that you should do some detective work and "go on a few social media sites and see what you can find out. Sometimes what you hear and what you should know are worlds apart. Before you give permission for the date, you should be completely satisfied with the answers you received (or found out) to the questions." Vega adds that it's important to prepare your teen for the possibility that a date can go wrong and to tell them to always trust their instincts if something just doesn't feel right.
We all know how receiving attention from another person can make you feel great about yourself. With your teen, who may be feeling that for the first time, it's important to reinforce that they maintain their sense of self-respect and self-worth. Encourage your teen to dress appropriately, and ensure they know that they alone hold the power over their body. Founder of The Dating Stylist, Amanda Wozadlo adds that, "Showing a little skin is OK, but you don't have to give away the whole package. And remember, you have the power to say no to any situation that you don't feel comfortable."
Going out alone can put your teen in a vulnerable situation, so it's important to talk to them about the warning signs of abuse and control. Maxine Browne, author of Years of Tears and inspirational speaker on the topic of domestic violence and healthy relationships, says, "Young people ages 16 to 24 are at the greatest risk of finding themselves in an abusive relationship. Being familiar with the red flags to watch for can help you end a relationship before violence takes over."
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