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When Teens Are Dating

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When Teens Are Dating, it is Time to Have the Talk You’ve Been Putting Off

    Deborah, the mother of 13-year-old Brianna, just discovered some things about her daughter.

    “I just found out that when she told me she was going to the movies with her best friend, she and her friend met two boys there,” Deborah said.

    “I’ve noticed that she has been more independent lately and spends more time alone in her bedroom. When I checked around in her room one day, I found letters she has written to friends at school and she talked about dating boys.”

     This revelation was shocking for Deborah who had never suspected Brianna was interested in boys or even thought about dating.

     Deborah went on to explain that she has been divorced from Brianna’s father for six years and Brianna does not see her father very often. Deborah is not dating or living with a man at this time. “That means,” Deborah said, “she doesn’t have a male figure in her life. Maybe she’s searching for someone to love.”

     Finally, Deborah said that she is frightened that at age 13 Brianna is too young to date, may be vulnerable to a relationship with an older boy, and could get involved in a sexual relationship at far too young an age.

     “What do I do and what do I say to Brianna?” Deborah wanted to know.

      When a young teenager, like Brianna, is interested in dating, it is time to talk to them.

     Ideally, you should start conversations about sexuality before your child is in a relationship or beginning to date. But parents many times fail to do this.

It’s not that parents don’t want to talk to their children about sex. Most want to and most intend to. Yet, they put off essential conversations about sex and sexuality. And that’s too bad for kids. Most young people say they would prefer to learn about sex from a parent. Yet, most kids say they never have those kinds of conversations with their mom or dad.

    The reason?  Mothers and fathers tend to hold back when there’s an opportunity to talk about sex. They make excuses, procrastinate or look for reasons why it’s not quite the right time. Then, before they know it, they have an adolescent who is dating and it’s no longer possible to avoid these important conversations.

     If it’s time for you to have a talk with your teenager, you can start by simply saying, “We should have had this conversation before, but you’ve grown up so fast I just didn’t realize we needed to talk yet. But I think now is a good time to get started.”

     Then, no matter how awkward you feel about this, you should talk about dating and sexuality.  But a major obstacle for many parents is knowing where to start and how much to say.  You may not be sure how much your child knows or what it is that they need to hear from you. However, by asking some simple questions or just by making  some straightforward and open-ended comments, such a conversation can get off the ground. For example, you can ask or say one or more of the following:

      “I’m really out of touch, what do kids think about sex these days?”

      “Since you’re going out now, you need to know what I think about sex.”

      “When I was your age, I thought I knew everything until I started to date, and then I had questions, but nobody was available to answer my questions. I’d like to be sure that you know that I will try to answer any questions that you have.”

When talking to your teen about dating, be sure you share your values. Your values and beliefs related to dating, sexual intercourse between teenagers, unprotected sex, pregnancy at an early age, and sexually transmitted diseases are all vitally important areas. But beyond their obvious importance is the fact that adolescents really do want to know what you think about these things.