How to talk to your kids about dating

A discussion on dating is also the time to explain your expectations, including curfews and rules such as knowing who your teen is with and where they’ll be at all times.

Despite their resistance, Johnsen says she has found in her years of working with teenagers that they do need – and often want – boundaries from their parents.

“It is important for the parent to meet the child at that moment where they are.” If your teen is seriously struggling with a breakup or a case of unrequited love, know when it’s time to seek professional help.

For example, she says, a 9-year-old who says she’s “dating” a boy at school might just mean that she waves to him on the playground at recess.

Instead of overwhelming your child with information, start with an open-ended question like, “What does dating mean to you? Asking questions also makes the talk a dialogue instead of a lecture.

“Boys need to be told that relationships need to be based on respect, trust and honesty and girls need to be told the same thing,” Michalopoulou says.

“I think when you start with the same baseline that’s how mutual respect develops.” Teens should also be taught about relationship “red flags” to watch out for, such as controlling or jealous behaviors, and signs of abuse.

“It’s very difficult to make decisions on your feet when the situation presents itself,” she says.

Parents can help their teenagers define boundaries for themselves and offer ideas to help implement them, such as a code word to text to a parent if the teen wants to be picked up or wants a phone call telling them to come home, Johnsen says.

Most teen relationships are relatively brief and, of course, end in breakup.

Parents should be prepared to be empathetic and help their teen work through their emotions, keeping in mind that they might not get all the details on what happened.

Teen support centers can also be a helpful resource.

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