Bring up the issue of adolescent dating and out will pour a plethora of responses:
“As long as they don’t get pregnant, I don’t care what they do.”
“Oh, it’s cute to see them start dating; it reminds me of when I was 14.”
“Time to polish my shotgun collection!”
“I’m not letting my kids date until they’re 18; it’s too dangerous out there.”
Parents have a very broad range of values, expectations, and styles when it comes to their adolescents and dating. This is why it is crucial that you develop your own set and being communicating them with your child early on.
One of the most important factors to consider regarding teens and dating is safety and one of the key issues surrounding safety that your adolescent needs to be aware of is dating violence. It is not a rare event. Just ask Rihanna—or look at the pictures of her busted face. Teen violence in the context of dating is quite common. In fact, women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of violence in the context of a dating relationship—nearly 20 per 1000 women.
Here are a few keys to preventing dating violence:
First, it is imperative that before your adolescent begins dating, both parents (whether you are divorced or not) speak candidly about dating violence.
Second, many parents today do not insist that they get to know a child’s boyfriend/girlfriend before they go out together on group or one-on-one dates. This is nothing less than foolish. In my home, no dating will occur until I meet my child’s crush at least a few times. In my opinion, one-on-one dating should not be allowed until the age of 16; until then, group dates are allowed if responsible adults are supervising.
Third, teach your adolescents that they have rights in dating relationships. Just as they have rights in their relationship with you, they have certain rights with their dating partner. A good compilation of these can be found at the Alabama Coalition Against Dating Violence at http://www.acadv.org/dating.html
I will be discussing this issue in more detail this week; watch for future blogs on this important topic.