Dating Advice for Parents
Teasing as a sign of affection is normal at this age. Kids think of their taunts (“You have cooties!”) as funny jokes shared among friends. But to the target, it’s upsetting no matter the intent, and how to handle it as a parent isn’t straightforward. Jump in too soon and you’ll be that helicopter parent micro-managing her kid’s life. Do nothing and you risk your daughter’s becoming distracted or self-conscious at school. She can probably tell that the attention is “I think you’re cute” teasing and not sinister, but if not, you can gently clue her in. (That may lessen the sting.) “You can also touch base with the teacher so she can make sure that everyone—your daughter included—feels safe in the classroom,” says Hemmen. “Ask the teacher if she can say something about how to treat each other in a general way to the whole class so that nobody feels embarrassed. You can also ask to have your child’s seat moved away from the offender.” Another good idea: Equip your kid with responses that she can use the next time she’s teased, such as “You’re making me uncomfortable. I want you to stop.” Having a mental script prepared will help her feel calm and in control when that antagonistic Don Juan approaches.
You’re not sure of how to introduce your boyfriend to your kids.
Before you consider introducing someone, ask yourself, Do I believe that we have a future as a couple? Have we discussed that future? If the answers to those questions are no and no, then you’re not ready yet to bring your kids into the relationship. The reason: Kids become attached easily, so when a breakup is likely, so are the chances of putting your family through heartache. Answered those questions above in the affirmative? Then let your kids know that there’s someone important to you whom you would like them to meet, says Michelle Golland, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles. Then plan an activity that will, ideally, keep everyone busy and interacting instead of staring at one another across plates of spaghetti. (Golland suggests bowling or mini golf.) After you all meet, there is a chance that your kids will ask some hard questions, like “Are you going to marry him?” Don’t give a long spiel. It will only make them stew on the topic more. Instead, just quickly say, “You’ll be the first one to know if Mommy plans on marrying again,” says Golland. Repeat yourself if necessary.
Your daughter is home from college with her boyfriend, and you don’t know where he should sleep.
Coed dorms are pretty common (as is, face it, rule flaunting on a single-sex floor), so relegating him to the couch is probably just for show. (Sorry.) That said, sometimes show is important, especially if you have younger teens and you don’t want them to think it’s OK for their boyfriends to sleep over, says Madison. If you are genuinely comfortable with your daughter and her boyfriend sleeping in the same room, let that guide your decision. But if you have any reservations, it’s your right to say no—and not feel an iota of guilt. When you go against your gut instinct, “you often end up resenting your child and the significant other,” says Hemmen. If your child pushes back and threatens not to visit at all, switch the focus to your relationship (leaving the boyfriend out of it). Let her know that her threat is hurtful and that you don’t want to see this drive a wedge between you. Still, stand your ground. “Tell her, ‘I promise to always respect your house rules if you respect mine,’” says Madison. Treating her like an adult, not like a kid being told what to do, will help.