A new era has arrived. You finally have kids old enough to start dating. And you are slightly terrified. You remember back to your dating days and the not-so-wise decisions that you made. Some of us may have even made choices that carried along lifetime consequences for us and others. Truly we have learned that “hindsight is 20/20”. We DO want our children to move forward and find a solid Christian partner to spend their lives with.
So how do we help with this?
Listen to your Dating Teen…Really Listen
Molly came home bouncing off the walls a few weeks ago. “He’s SO cute,” she told her mom. “Maybe I should ask him out first!” Off to her room she flew and mom was left holding the side of the kitchen counter, clearing her throat. “Now where did she learn that?” She wondered.
Once long ago, we gals learned that asking a guy out was not appropriate, but times have changed. Commonly, girls are the ask-ers and as Christian parents, we should be willing to also allow our girls, in appropriate situations, to make that first move. Nowhere does God state that He is against this in His Word. In fact, He empowers women throughout the old and new testament to make decisions and provide wise leadership.
Actively listening to your teen (vs planning what you will say next) is an important step in gaining the information needed to help guide them. Are they of age to date and expressing interest? If so, it is time to start enforcing the information you’ve already raised them with and help support them in their endeavors.
Unhealthy Patterns of Behavior
My son once brought up a relationship between two friends that he was concerned about. We were able to talk about some unhealthy patterns of behavior and he later recognized the same patterns in his new girlfriend. He had already learned that God is not pro-manipulation or pro-controlling of another human being. He already learned that we as humans are equal and that a true relationship is about service and love. It took him a while, but he did remove himself from the relationship as more issues became evident.
There are times when it seems my teens barely speak to me, so this recommendation to listen is not just about words. Listening includes hearing their silence and seeking to connect with them. Helping them to remember that they are a priority to you. And listening to their non-verbal communication such as body language.
Watch Your Teen
Watch for signs of unhealthy relationships and friendships. Here is a great early relationship checklist of what to watch for in the other party, including things like a push for quick involvement, jealousy and isolating activities. If you see any of these behaviors, or if your teen is exhibiting them, it is time for a discussion and potentially some outside help. In fact, to prepare my kids, we talk about these things when we see them happen around us. On the news, in the store or down the street. In Proverbs 27:12, the Bible says that the prudent see danger and take refuge.
Be aware also of any changes in usual behavior/activities in your teen. “I don’t understand my daughter,” a mom recently told me. “She usually is pretty happy but has been in her room for most of the past week.” This is not normal teen malaise. Silence and changes in behavior speak volumes. Mom needed to follow up and when she did, she learned that her daughter had experienced a traumatic experience on a date. Work at not being defensive or overly questioning when something comes to light and do not take it personally when your teen has not shared with you. Focus on the issue and how you can be most helpful.
My husband has a great phrase. It is “tell me more”. We often use this at our house. It not only ensures the kids of our interest but when I use it, it reminds me to focus on them and not how just now hearing about something has thrown me a curveball. “So train your heart to listen when I speak and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment— then pass it on to your sons and daughters.” (Proverbs 2:2, TPV)
Guide Your Teen to Healthy Choices
Even as teens, our children find security in a home environment where they are listened to, have boundaries and consequences and most importantly, your love. And although we cannot save them from the heartache a dating relationship might cause, we can help them make good choices. As they look to us-so it’s also important that we are making wise choices in our relationships, whether that is with a significant other, in-law, parent, friend or sibling. Be a good example, listen and watch your teen, be there for them, pray ceaselessly for them and provide that stable, at-home love that they so need. Those are all tools that will guide them to make healthy and appropriate dating decisions.
Julie Bonn Blank is a national freelance writer, inspirational website designer, pastor's wife and survivor of domestic abuse. She is married with four children and a grandchild on the way. She, her husband, youngest son and fur-baby Mocha reside near the coast of Oregon. She can be reached at her website https://juliebonnblank.com