Dear Your Teen:
My 15-year-old son is dating a girl who seems much more advanced in the dating arena, as her previous relationships were with older boys. I’m concerned they are moving too fast. I want to restrict him from seeing her—but I don’t want the fight. What should I do?
There are many challenges to parenting adolescents, but for lots of parents, dating is near the top of the pile. Though it can be tough to think about your teen’s romantic life, dating during adolescence serves as good practice for future relationships and allows teens to consider what qualities matter to them in a relationship. One key to navigating this issue is frequent, open-ended conversations with your daughter or son. If your teenager is like most, he will balk at the idea of discussing his dating life with you, but don’t let that stop you from jumping on the chance to discuss the topic with him when you can. And expect to have numerous conversations—your son may be more open to talking about it if he knows it will be brief and low-key and that he doesn’t have to settle in for a lecture.
I Don’t Like The Girl Dating My Son
Parents aren’t always enthusiastic about who their teens choose to date. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to consider what exactly bothers you about the relationship. Are you worried that your son might face situations he’s not yet mature enough to handle? Or do you dislike the idea of him getting involved with a partner who brings a reputation to the relationship?
Short of teenagers involved in dangerous relationships, restricting whom you allow your teen to date is rarely a practical approach. It often inspires adolescents to violate your trust and pursue the relationship anyway. Moreover, it takes the reins of the relationship away from the two people who should be holding them.
In a nonjudgmental way through true curiosity, consider asking your son what he enjoys about the person he is dating. Really listen to what he has to say. You might follow his response with some guidance that relationships should feel good and safe and should progress at a pace that is comfortable for both partners. Though it’s an uphill battle to keep teens away from those they want to date, you can make sure that your son has plenty of other interests and activities that foster his well-being and fill in his extracurricular time.
Dr. Tori Cordiano is a clinical psychologist in Beachwood, Ohio, and the Director of Research for the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls.