When a child is on the verge of their first date, most parents feel a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from excitement to fear, to an intense urge to vomit. They were just babies yesterday, and now the thought of them jumping feet first in the dating pool is a little scary… for so many reasons. Teen dating is difficult for everyone involved, but you’ve spent a long time protecting them, and they are going to need your support and advice on this one too. We’ve lined up all the best dating advice for teens to help you maneuver these difficult conversations.
Make dating an adventure.
We all know the dating world can be difficult, regardless of your age or the status of your relationship. That’s why teamed up with some of the best relationship experts out there to create the Adventure From Scratch: Date Edition book. This one-of-a-kind puzzle book doubles as a manual and journal of your experiences in the romance world. It contains dozens of interesting challenges, indoor date ideas, love notes, and conversation starters to get things going. If your date nights need refreshing, or you’re looking for some pro-advice, it’s time to take your dating life to the next base.
Every Parent’s Advice Will Differ
Every family is different and has varying values. Based on your background, your child’s maturity level, religious beliefs, and parenting style, you will have to make decisions that work for your crew. Your rules and expectations may be different than your friend’s parents, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that, but you must discuss this with your teen. Open communication about expectations is important.
While your dating advice for your teen may vary a little from the next parent’s, we have lined up some of the most important tips to share with your teen to give them the best shot at building healthy romantic relationships and enjoying their first dating experiences. Parents tend to shy away from talking about dating with their teens because it’s uncomfortable. While your teen may act like they know it all, in the long run, they will be grateful for parents who took the initiative to have hard conversations and who prepared them for the dating world.
The Best Teen Dating Advice
While some of these tips may be appropriate to bring up when you see a problem, most are more beneficial to talk about before your teen starts dating. The more they know about their own body, emotions, and the nature of relationships, the easier this whole thing will be for them. They won’t want to talk about some of this junk, but your first dating tip is to explain the importance of talking about this stuff and that is to prevent them from unnecessary pain and suffering.
1. Don’t take it too seriously.
First loves always feel like the real thing, and in a way, they are. However, the statistics are overwhelmingly against teen couples staying together after high school. Before things get serious, explain to your teen that hormones, and the drive to make their first real relationship succeed, can trick them into staying when they should let it go. Encourage them that when it doesn’t feel right, there is no shame in walking away. Teenage dating should be fun, not add stress to your life. Keep it light.
2. Don’t compromise who you are.
Teens and young adults are just starting to figure out who they are outside of their parents. Getting involved with another person, during this volatile time, can confuse, and many teens end up sacrificing a bit themselves to conform to the expectations of their partner. Geez, many adults still haven’t figured out how not to compromise themselves.
Dating does help young people learn new social skills, develop self-esteem, and learn to care for another human, so it has value. You just want to make sure they don’t get in over their heads. Remind your teen of their amazing qualities. Keep an eye out for changes in your child, and gently point them out when you see them. They will likely argue and resist, but just remind them not to compromise who they are, what they want to do, or how they behave based on the needs of someone else. It’s always best to just be yourself.
3. You can compromise on little things.
As important as being yourself is, all healthy relationships do require a little give and take. Encourage your teen to alternate date ideas with their partner. Spend time doing things they both enjoy. Eat at your favorite restaurant this Friday and theirs next Friday. You get the gist. Teens do still tend to be pretty self-focused in a lot of ways, so they may need some coaching when it comes to putting someone else’s needs on par with their own.
4. Don’t be fooled by lust.
Teenage hormones are crazy powerful, and it’s very easy to mistake intense lust for your first love. Warn your teen about the killer feelings they are likely to encounter. Strong physical attraction and those butterflies in the stomach are normal, but they don’t equal wedding bells.
5. Know the signs of abuse.
In our formative years, we are more susceptible to abusive relationships. Protect your teen’s physical and mental health by teaching them the signs of abuse. A healthy dating partner should not try to keep you from your friends or family. A good partner doesn’t turn every argument back on you and make it your fault. A good partner doesn’t get jealous when you speak to other people. They don’t ask you to change your looks or force any sexual activity that you aren’t comfortable with. They don’t manipulate or lie. Having a conversation with your teen about common abusive tactics, gaslighting techniques, and red flags can save them from dating violence and major heartbreak in the future.
6. Never give up your independence.
A good partner is a friend and will never ask you to give up your freedom. Teens need to know that there is a difference between wanting to spend all their time together (normal), and a dating partner not wanting you to spend time with anyone else (not cool). If the relationship is going to last, it’s important to keep your other friendships and family relationships healthy.
7. A broken heart hurts more than anything on earth.
Preparing your teenager for heartache is pretty difficult for parents. Teens tend to jump headstrong into dating relationships, and when they crash, they crash hard. Before they start dating, talk to your teen about heartbreak. Explain that it will likely happen and that it’s normal and incredibly painful. It doesn’t mean they are a failure. It doesn’t mean they did anything wrong. Explain to them that it will feel like death at first, but that they will heal and move on eventually.
8. Seek to bring the best out in each other.
If you and your partner are not bringing out the best in each other, then it’s time to reevaluate. If they make you angry, unhappy, or anxious, then have an honest conversation and make some changes, or move on. Dating partners should always try to better each other, not burden each other.
9. Look for ways to encourage.
Going along with the last one, almost all people, can do with a little encouragement. Without ignoring red flags, teach your teen to look for and complement the best in their love interest. It’s a good relationship rule for all their associations.
10. Work on your friendship.
Don’t try to date someone that you aren’t friends with, and don’t enjoy spending time with, no matter how strong the physical attraction is. If the other person isn’t fun, doesn’t stimulate you mentally, and is boring, then the goosebumps they give you will fade quickly.
11. Don’t get in a rut.
Keep your dating life fun! The teenage years are about getting out and having new experiences. Encourage teens to have group dates, explore new adventures, and avoid just sitting on the couch looking at social media together. Adventures From Scratch: Date Edition is a great gift for your teenager. Our dating and adventure experts have teamed up to create an awesome resource, filled with over 50 scratch-off date ideas. The dates range from at-home cooking nights to day trip nature adventures. The pack includes interesting conversation starters, creative challenges, and much more!
12. Be a haven of trust.
In other words, don’t kiss and tell. Your dating partner should be able to trust you. Teenage girls are notoriously ruthless to each other, and a boyfriend who lets out personal details can be catastrophic to a girl’s self-esteem and reputation. While boys tend to brag more about this kind of stuff, that isn’t always true. Every relationship and every person is different. Whether you’re a parent of a teen girl or boy, it’s important, as a parent, that you teach and model respect and trust
13. Avoid immature manipulation.
Don’t ever manipulate your partner to get your way. That is a form of abuse. Making your partner feel guilty for spending time with others, or not wanting to do what you want to do, is unhealthy. It’s better to communicate honestly about your feelings, without placing blame.
14. A breakup doesn’t have to be ugly.
Always treat your exes with respect. There is no reason to spread rumors, get involved in drama, or share their secrets. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Stay above the urge to drag their name through the mud.
15. Have real conversations.
You cannot have a real relationship through Snapchat or texting communication only. You need to spend time together and have face-to-face conversations. It’s how you truly get to know someone and how learn to maneuver healthy confrontation. Here are “45 Fun Date Ideas for Teenage Couples” that offer perfect moments for improving your communication with each other.
16. Be very careful about sex.
Teenage sex, for the most part, is not your best bet. You have the hormones and the physical attributes to do the deed, but most teens are not emotionally mature enough to handle the intricacies of a sexual relationship. It’s especially important that you know and trust the person before you make that decision, and that the decision is wholly mutual. This goes for any sexual activity, including sending photographs, foreplay, or making out. If you’re not 100% sure of your partner’s trustworthiness, then do not go there.
If you do choose to have sex, you need to protect yourself. Birth control is a good idea, but it doesn’t protect from sexually transmitted diseases. Make sure your teen has access to condoms and that they understand the ins and outs of sex. Make sure they know that “pulling out” isn’t enough. It’s a hard conversation to have, but dealing with the fallout is even harder. Don’t rely on school sex ed, and do not assume that your 15-year-old truly understands sex. They probably don’t.
17. Sex can happen even if you aren’t ready.
Unfortunately, rape is a real thing, and it’s often perpetrated by people we trust. If you don’t trust yourself, or your partner, to stay within the dating rules you have set, then don’t be alone together in a place where sex could happen. Always trust your gut, and if it feels like a shady situation, then don’t go, especially if drugs or alcohol are involved. Alcohol and a little peer pressure can easily lead to a decision you aren’t ready for and will regret.
18. Be open and honest with your parents or a trusted adult.
Find someone that you trust and who can keep an eye on you. Have an adult you can go to for solid advice. Your friends don’t know any more about dating than you do. Find someone that you respect and that has some experience and a solid relationship. Encourage them that they can always talk to you, but if they aren’t comfortable with that, then just find someone trustworthy.
19. It’s better to be single than miserable.
Don’t stay in a relationship where you’re stressed or unhappy. It’s not worth it. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to leave, and the more damage you will do to each other.
20. Realistic expectations are key.
Real-life dating is not a fairy tale. Your boyfriend isn’t always going to be romantic. Your girlfriend isn’t going to look like a supermodel. Real dating involves hard conversations, disappointments, and learning to compromise. If you have realistic expectations, you will protect your heart and not be hurt so easily.
21. Set boundaries early.
Have a conversation with your dating partner early, maybe even before the first date. You need to set some boundaries and expectations for each other. If one of you thinks you’re going to be exclusive, and the other one doesn’t, then someone is going to get hurt. If one partner expects sex and the other partner wants to remain a virgin, someone is going to get hurt. You need to set specific boundaries for certain aspects and lay out your expectations.
22. Don’t assume things about your partner.
High schools are full of rumors and backtalk. If you hear something negative about your partner, or you have a negative feeling, the best thing to do is to go straight to them and talk about it. Don’t blame before you ask. Don’t get upset before you verify the information. Assume the best until you’re proven wrong. Blaming someone unnecessarily is a sure way to cause stress in any relationship.
23. Don’t play mind games.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Your partner is not a mind-reader. This one tends to be more of an issue for females. We want our partner to just know what we need. It feels unromantic to have to tell them, but that is never how it works. Subtle hints generally don’t work, and everyone in the relationship will be happier if you’re just open about what you like and what you don’t like.
24. The rules are to protect you.
Curfews, phone calls, and location tracking are to protect you and to give me, as your parent, peace of mind. They are not because I don’t trust you. They are because the world is a dangerous place, and this will be the first time you’re out there experiencing it without adult guidance. I’m not trying to drag you down. I want you to have experiences in a way that keeps you safe.
25. Take your time.
There is no pressure to get into an exclusive or serious relationship. Take your time finding someone that you mesh with. Peer pressure can push you to date before you’re ready, but you have your whole life to do that. There is no shame in hanging with friends, going on group dates, or casually dating.
26. Your parents have your back.
Let your teen know that you support them, trust them and that you’re always there in the background if they need you. While you may not always agree on partners, rules, or actions, you’re for them and want them to succeed.
27. You don’t owe anyone anything.
Aside from respect and honesty, you do not owe a dating partner anything. You don’t owe them your time. You don’t owe them your devotion, and you don’t owe them a relationship. If you want out, then you have the right to leave. Just remember, they don’t owe you anything either, and they are free to live their lives the way they want to as well.
28. You can’t change people.
Do not get involved with someone who is into a lifestyle that you don’t agree with. He will not stop the drugs just because he loves you. She will not stop smoking because you don’t like it. He will not stop sleeping with other people just because you sleep with him. Addictions and lifestyles are hard to change. They probably really do care for you, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be able to do an about-face to please you, even if they want to.
29. Don’t isolate yourself from friends and family.
If this relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t want to have burned all your bridges. Make sure that you leave time for your friends, sports, schoolwork, and family. You have other obligations outside of your dating life.
30. You will probably get rejected.
You’re probably going to ask someone out who says no. You will probably really like someone who might not have the same feelings for you. That is ok. It’s not a failure on your part, but it’s their right to date, or not date, whoever they want. They just aren’t the person for you.
Most parents dread the dating stage, but in truth, it can be a time of bonding between you and your teen. Open a direct line of communication. Be vulnerable and let them know that you understand what they are going through and that you’re available to offer advice any time they need it. Avoid judgment, and be careful not to intrude too much unless they are in danger. If you can set up open, honest communication before they start dating, then they will feel able to turn to you when the situation gets sticky.
Proper communication is a skill that takes practice and a little research. “How to Have Better Conversations With Your Partner” is a great resource for your teens to learn how to effectively communicate with a love interest. Many of these tips can are just as applicable to conversations between you and your teen.
What have you learned during the teen dating years? Drop your best dating advice in the comments.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best dating advice for teenagers is to take it slow, protect your sexual health, and continue to spend time with friends and family.
Teenage dating can help with social skills, but teens are also at high risk of sexual abuse, manipulation by a partner, and isolating themselves from friends and family.
Teens tend to love active dates or group dating at first. A dating book, like Adventures from Scratch, can help teens create fun dates around their home, city, or surrounding area.