I’ve been talking with lots of moms who have kids in the dating phase of life. And it is amazing the amount of emotional impact these relationships are having. Whether your kids are barely teenagers or are ready to move into their 20’s, the dating game has changed significantly over the past decade with the advent of smartphones, Facebook, and Snapchat. What used to be said face-to-face can be tweeted, shared, deleted, or copy and pasted in a nanosecond.
And heartache goes viral instead of staying between two people.
A “he said”/”she said” becomes a drama played out among people who now have access to all the data and the intimate details.
And judgment is made, lines are drawn, and what should have been a difficult face-to-face exchange now becomes the gossip that can cause massive emotional trauma rather than just another heartbreak.
If you are in this stage of life with your kids, you’ve probably done more emotional intervention than you expected as your kids play the dating game. And if you are not quite there yet, brace yourself for the inevitable and parent ahead with your kids so they know what the rules of dating should be in order to respect themselves and the other person.
So what kind of things could we teach our kids? How do we help them learn to respect themselves along with the other person? Based on the nitty-gritty coming from moms who have been open to sharing the things they’ve encountered with their kids, here are some talking points that might help your teens seeing dating from a different perspective.
- Dating comes with one of two outcomes–either marriage or heartbreak. Expect a few heartbreaks.
- Chances are you are dating someone else’s spouse. Treat the other person with the same respect as you would hope your future spouse is being treated.
- Remember that when you enter a dating relationship, you will most likely give the other person your heart, just as they are giving you their heart. Hold onto that heart as if it is precious. That way when/if you choose to take your heart back and return the other person’s heart to them, there is minimal emotional damage for both of you.
- Know that a broken relationship will result in some amount of heartache. Grieve the loss rather than pretend it didn’t happen. It is normal to feel hurt, anger, and sadness. Just be sure to not take it out on the other person.
- Most of us have hopes and dreams of what romantic love looks like. We have expectations of the other person. Know that your significant other will not be able to meet all your expectations.
- Keep in mind that early in the relationship you will see perfection because you haven’t had time to see the other person’s flaws. Date with your eyes open and be aware of the other person’s tendencies that don’t line up with your value system. Also get perspective from your parents.
- Keep two sets of friends–the ones you’ve had as a single person and add the other person’s friends. If you drop your friends to engage exclusively with the other person’s friends, the breakup will be even harder because you will have no one to lean on.
- Define the relationship early and set appropriate boundaries. Your kids see acceptable boundaries based on what their friends are doing. If your kids are in junior high, let them know that it is okay to be special boy/girl friends; however, you need to help them define the boundaries. The same is true with late teen dating relationships. How much can they be on the phone together? Curfew? Double dating vs. single dating? What about going on vacation with the other person’s family? Can they be in your house alone? What is acceptable touching/kissing? What is appropriate for texting? The earlier these are defined, the more you can “remind” them rather than fight about the issues.
- Talk about Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, and any other social media. Kids need to understand do’s and don’ts that are appropriate for their age. An “in a relationship” that is posted and then unfriended can be devastating for our kids as well as pictures that have been taken off social platforms. Suddenly seeing that they have been replaced with another friend of the opposite sex can devastate them.
- Encourage your kids to text only what they would feel comfortable with all their friends reading. Recently a mom told me that her daughter had texted an apology to a significant other about something she had said and done that was inappropriate. Shortly afterwards, her daughter accidentally received a text from the boy where he had copied and pasted the apology with a note that was supposed to go to his friends. She was horrified that he had been sending her texts to other people. Suddenly everyone close to him knew her darkest secret.
- Talk about sex and help your kids know where the boundaries are. Have them talk about them up front with the other person before they get in the heat of the moment, i.e. “I’m saving sex until marriage” or “I want to be friends; holding hands is okay, kissing isn’t.” Teach them things to say to the other person if the other teen is pushing boundaries. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing this given where we are in the relationship. Why don’t we go for a walk and cool things down.”
- When the time comes for a breakup, help your teen to think through what they plan to say and also let them know that the breakup needs to be in person. You can’t give a person back their heart over a text or Face Time. Encourage them to explain the reason for the breakup, i.e. “I think you are a cool person, but I’m not feeling anything romantic” or “I like you a lot, but my priority right now needs to be ___ and I don’t have time to pour in to this relationship.” They should also state what the next steps should be, i.e. “If you text me, I will not be returning the texts”, or “I won’t be sitting with you at the games anymore”, or “I don’t want you hanging out with my friends.” Let your teen understand that this needs to be done with kindness and not hostility even if the other person is making a scene. Be kind but firm.
- Encourage your teen to forgive, especially if it is the other person who is initiating the breakup.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses
In our teen’s life, they need to understand that the way they handle breakups does have impact on the other person in a huge way. If they state their wishes, give reason for the breakup, and set boundaries for the future giving the other person their heart back with respect and dignity, chances are both kids can go into their next relationship in a healthy way. Encourage your teens to treat the other person in the same manner they would like to be treated. And encourage them to stand their ground and once the decision has been made that it is over–then they need to respect that and move on.
Helping our kids process a breakup can be a time of strengthening our relationship with our teens. Our wisdom and perspective can help them grieve and move to the next phase of life if we are willing to engage in a respectful way. Give them a hug and offer encouragement. After all, they will be married all too soon.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Would you like to be in a better relationship with your kids where you can help them set boundaries in dating? Would you like to deepen your relationship with God and your kids? With All Due Respect isn’t just a book. It’s deep thinking curriculum that will help you look at yourself as you parent. It will give you insight as seen through the lens of moms who are farther ahead in the parenting arena. Why not pick up your copy now or better yet, do it in a small group?
Don’t have a small group? You can join our eCourse with women across the country that are learning how to connect on a deeper level. There you will find support from your eCourse mentors as well as myself. Hope to see you there.