Parents: So Your Teen Has A Valentine’s Day Date
The day you knew was coming.
Your teenager is going out on their first real date, and it’s on February 14th: Valentine’s Day.
You’re freaking out.
You tell your friends about it, and they say things like:
And all you’re thinking is:
No. Not cute, not adorable, not exciting. I don’t want my kid dating. I want them to be that little kid again. If they get heartbroken, I think my heart would literally break, too. I don’t want them to have to deal with all the ins and outs of relationships. And I most certainly don’t want them making out. Or…heaven forfend…thinking about the possibility of maybe one day considering the idea of having…sex!
So you say a silent prayer that you know is all kinds of wrong. It goes something like this:
“I hope they don’t really like each other. I hope their date is too shy and awkward to go in for a good-night kiss, and that at the end of the date, my precious little one thinks ‘Meh. Dating? Me? Not so much.’”
Here’s a tip: you should be happy your kid is going on a date.
That’s right: happy.
Glad you asked.
Why Parents Should Encourage Their Teens to Date
First of all, if you’re a single parent, let’s get this out of the way right now: maybe you’re jealous they have a date and you don’t!
You’re so busted.
Don’t put that – or your dating baggage – on your kid. Don’t worry: they’ll collect enough of their own along the way.
We found a great article in The Washington Post from last year on this very topic. We’ll offer the best parts in a tidy list for you, to help you keep perspective on this Valentine’s Day date that’s making you break out in a cold sweat.
Three Reasons to Encourage Your Teen to Date
1. Dating does not mean having sex.
That’s a simple sentence but it’s a big deal. Just because they’re going on a date does not mean they’re going to do anything other than what they say they’re going to do: go to a movie, get froyo, or whatever. They might not even hold hands or make googly eyes at each other.
2. It builds trust.
If you’re supportive and you set appropriate boundaries (curfew, where they can go, etc.) for the date, then this means they’re more likely to talk to you about the date – and any issues they encountered during it – when they get home. You want them to talk to you about their dating life: being categorically against dating will decrease the likelihood they’ll talk about things they really do need your input on.
3. It prepares them for the future.
Life is all about trial and error. Nobody learns much about life without having actual life experience. The same goes for your teen and dating. Not only do you want them to learn how to manage non-dating relationships on their own, you want them to develop solid relationship skills before they leave the house. Whether that means going to college or striking off on their own to get a job and an apartment, relationship skills – including dating skills – are important to have.
Let Them Enjoy The Day
We hope all that makes sense. Because it’s logical, and it’s true. We know you want to protect your child from all the tough things in life. You don’t want their heart broken and you don’t want them to end up in a toxic relationship – but the best way to avoid those things is to let them practice dating and having relationships while they’re still at home, under your legal control. If you clamp down and forbid dating, your efforts will probably backfire.
So, this Valentine’s Day – let go. Let your kids go on that date.
And no: do not follow them!
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.