Parenting Matters: Talk to teens early, often about dating
Joy Tanimura Winquist Family Shelter Services February 18, 2013 2:52PM
Joy Tanimura Winquist, Family Shelter Services
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:16AM
Welcome to the Collaborative Youth Team’s column, “Parenting Matters!” The Collaborative Youth Team is a partnership of 22 youth and family service organizations. Each month, a different partner will offer practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth. This month’s column is shared by Joy Tanimura Winquist, prevention coordinator for Family Shelter Service.
When is a good time to talk to your son or daughter about dating? Well, considering most seventh-graders say they have dated, the sooner the better.
It is important to know that our children, despite what they say, really do value our opinions and support. When talking about dating, it’s important that we are clear about the importance of respect, trust and open communication in the makings of healthy relationships. It is also important to define these key ingredients with examples.
We often assume that everyone knows what it means to respect or trust another person, but these are big words. The more concrete examples you can give the better!
The most important thing we can do for our kids is to model healthy relationships. We are the ultimate role models for our children — so our relationships should model trust and respect. Additionally, it’s important our children know how to communicate their feelings and boundaries with their partner.
Modeling that type of communication is the best way to teach them what to expect from a romantic partner. This also fosters an open line of communication in case they need help in a dating relationship — whether it is talking about sex, break ups or concerns about the health of their relationship.
It is important our children know we are there for them, and we are willing to help them through this process.
Here are a few more tips for talking to your son or daughter about dating:
Understand that this doesn’t have to be all one talk. Break it up into many talks.
Remember your teen is learning about relationships by watching you. The more you work on your own relationship, the better your teen will “hear” you when you talk about dating.
Share your thoughts on what you feel are appropriate dating expectations. Ask them about relationships on TV and talk through your thoughts on the health of those relationships.
Make it very clear to your teen, through words and actions, that you will always be there for him to talk to or lend an empathetic ear. Although your teen will need to make his or her own choices, you are there if they need you.
Talk about sex.
It’s always a good idea to meet your teen’s friends and dating partners. It lets them know that you are invested in their friendships and relationships.
Tell your teen that dating is meant to be fun. If your teen ever feels threatened, pressured, verbally put down or is physically harmed, he or she should come to you or another trusted adult right away.
This column is courtesy of KidsMatter, Collaborative Youth Team facilitator. To access the community resource guide and partner contact information, visit