Coping With Dating Is Your Teenage Child Ready?
A child in the family brings great joy. After all, it takes a long wait and great effort for a child to be born. However, once the baby arrives time quickly passes, and before you know it, the baby is crawling, walking, talking and soon out of the home away at school. With time, you will find the child becoming more self reliant, and soon – the baby you once held is a teen!
With a teenager, comes a mixed bag of elements. The child is at his/her peak socially – making friends, exploring the world, and learning a host of complex social skills. This is also when the child truly starts to develop a personality, through all that has been taught at home and school, from friends and other stimuli. This is a time when the child becomes fiercely independent, looking for ways and opportunities to be alone, and around those of a similar age.
The teenage years can be a trying time for both parent and child. The child looks to be more reliant, tries to find acceptance, and deals with complex issues like puberty, hormones and self-identity. For the parent, this is when the child is most rebellious, pushing and testing limits and attempting to find ways to work around you.
A universal truth about a teenager is that this is a time when a child begins to truly explore his or her identity and relationships with both genders. This is a time when boys and girls begin to discover an attraction to one another, and subsequently want to explore the possibilities of dating and going out. While parents may start to come undone at the very thought, it is a phase that must be dealt with carefully.
As a parent, it is difficult to draw lines that are mutually acceptable. Most decisions and rules are usually made out of compromise and exchange. Parents always think their children are too young and are afraid to accept that they are, in fact, growing. Parents believe their child is too young to be dating. An objective look would tell you otherwise.
For a parent, it is difficult to know when is an appropriate age to begin dating. There is no set rule or set age. Unlike a fixed age at which children are admitted to schools and classes, dating has no criteria. It requires some judicious thought and attention for you to know if your child is old enough to start dating.
The most important thing to be able to gauge is whether your child is mature enough. Has your child grown enough emotionally to know what dating means and what it entails? Do they know when and where to draw lines, and how to respect the freedom that has been given to them? You could start this process by introducing some elements that can help you determine this. Look for accountability by including harmless allowances. Begin by pushing deadlines marginally. Work in some freebies, and look to see if your child appreciates your gestures and reciprocates by adhering to limits.
The most important thing you need to do before you actually encourage or allow your child to date is to develop a nurturing relationship if it does not exist already. This time will require your support as a parent, whether the child admits it or not. There are bound to be rejections and break ups, and this can be very unsettling for the child, especially initially. If you can manage to create an environment where the child feels comfort on coming back home to a sanctuary with you, you have made a great step. This is not something that can happen overnight, and you should start thinking of and planning for this even before you think your child is ready to date.
Have open conversations with your child about dating and how it can be fun. While we may, as parents, want to talk about the perils and problems with dating to protect our children first, also let them know of the pleasures and positives, which will make the point clearer to them. An objective picture is always more appealing and powerful. Ensure that you guide them on their role, and be firm about the pressures involved in dating, and also the limits that they must set. Be open when talking about matters related to sex. While you may find that your child feels a little awkward sometimes, it is important to discuss these issues.
The most important thing to remember when you approach the issue of teenage dating is to remember that you were once a teen yourself. Think of the fun of puppy love, the joy in simply holding hands secretly, and the sheer thrill of just seeing your crush come across to you. This is extremely essential for every teenager, and being with them through this phase will not only ensure that you and your child be friends for life, but also that your child grows to be a complete, adequate individual. Do not deny your child these pleasures out of your own possessiveness or protectiveness. Let them learn from their mistakes, but be there to prevent calamity and to give them a strong shoulder to lean on.