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How do I ensure my teen is making "good" decisions when dating?

Q: My 17-year-old daughter has shown interest in dating multiple young men, I am apprehensive about her doing this for a few reasons: 1) I'm concerned about how dating multiple young men may look to her peers, 2) I am also concerned about whether or not she is making the right choices while on dates. How can I trust that she is making good decisions?

A: When your child(ren) starts to date it can be a bit intimidating to talk to them about the choices they can make. Making sure you equip them with the skills to articulate themselves, think critically, and ensure they're making self-empowered, healthy decisions should drive your conversations.

It is a huge step in a young person’s life when they begin considering people they may be interested in dating. Contrary to popular belief talking, to your child about sex doesn’t encourage them to engage in sexual activity. What it DOES do is ensure they have gathered information from a trusted source.

Here are ways you can make sure your daughter is increasing her emotional and social intelligence and decision-making skills:

  1. Create scenarios and act them out often. We all know the old adage "practice makes perfect." Although "perfection" should not be the goal, this tool is great for giving teens an opportunity to not have to walk into a situation blind. Although you will not be able to prepare them for each and every situation that could occur you can give them a sense of what could happen while you both practice healthy responses in a controlled environment.

  2. Give your child creative outlets where they can accurately articulate their feelings. This can include journaling, talking to themselves, writing poetry or rhymes/raps. These have no word or time limits.

  3. Lastly, try to "practice what you preach." If you are asking your children to articulate their feelings, show them you can do the same. Don’t rely on the “because I said so” routines. If your children question your decisions, articulate the full reason(s) why you are doing/saying what you are doing/saying.

I suggest you begin using tools like these, tools that enhance social and emotional development with your children as young as 5.

Lastly, I encourage you to evaluate your reasons behind your concern for what her peers may or may not think. Remember #3 and articulate your response. Ask yourself if this thought process is fair or even reasonable? Asking (projecting that) your daughter to (should) make her decisions based on what her peers may or may not think could be a slippery slope.

You can find multiple resources for parents on the GCAPP page here.

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