Dating Advice for Parents
Danielle Steel writes about it. Barry White sang about it. And everyone, including (like it or not) your kids, searches for it. “Adults and kids have an innate desire to give and receive love,” says Amber Madison, a sex educator and therapist in New York City and the author of Talking Sex With Your Kids, ($13, amazon.com). But supporting your children as they test the waters isn’t easy. How, for example, do you cheer for l’amour when your 16-year-old daughter brings home a 22-year-old boyfriend? Or when your son sees your online dating profile and then critiques it? Here, relationship and parenting experts share solutions for 10 tricky dating predicaments, no matter which member of your household Cupid is targeting.
Your four-year-old says that she has a “boyfriend.”
Relax. Just because your daughter is chasing boys on the playground does not mean that she’s going to be boy-crazy later in life. It’s common for preschoolers—both boys and girls—to mimic what they see at home (you and your husband cuddling on the couch) and in movies (those darn princesses with their one true loves). A girl saying “I have a boyfriend” or a boy saying “I’m going to marry Emily” is a lot like playing house, says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey, and a coauthor of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids ($13, amazon.com). Just make sure that your daughter knows that she’s pretending and that she understands what a boyfriend actually is, so she doesn’t get confused. “Tell your child that, at her age, she can have friends who are boys but not real boyfriends,” says Kennedy-Moore. Then emphasize that, girl or boy, she should be kind to everyone.
Your 17-year-old has yet to go on a date—and you’re pretty sure that she’s bummed about it.
Your teen’s singlehood is good news, even if she doesn’t see it that way. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Adolescence found that girls who delayed romantic relationships—that is, spending time with real, live boyfriends—to age 14 or older were less likely to have behavioral problems at home and at school than those who began dating at 11. A 2010 survey of 1,770 Yale undergraduates (in other words, serious smarties) revealed that only 64 percent had ever had sexual intercourse. Plus, “a lot of early bloomers—that is, kids who date at a young age—go through turmoil because they are entering adult scenarios that they don’t have the maturity to handle,” says Lucie Hemmen, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Cruz, California, and the author of Parenting a Teen Girl ($16, amazon.com). A late bloomer won’t experience that same aggravation and angst. So rather than offering your child flirtation tips, reassure her that she’s OK and encourage her to keep pursuing her own interests. You should be troubled only if she doesn’t have friends or has a hard time with all relationships, not just romantic ones, says Kennedy-Moore. Make sure that your child has ample opportunities for meeting people (clubs at school, a summer job, a volunteer activity) so that she can learn how to forge connections. “That’s the important skill that teens need for college—and life,” says Kennedy-Moore.