Share by E-Mail When Tommy came to visit my office, he was very upset about his girlfriend breaking up with him. They went to church together, and he could not understand how she could dump him.
As Tommy shared more of his story, it became clear why his girlfriend left him. The term always got him a laugh from his peers, so he refused, telling her she was unreasonable. Tommy found that his good looks and charm were not enough to excuse his hurtful behavior and he lost his girlfriend as a result. As Tommy and I discussed his options, he agreed that an apology was in order and agreed to make better choices. How do we help develop character in our teens and help them make good choices? We focus on the heart.
What emanates from the heart is what we believe about God, ourselves and others. When teens are living by Godly morals and standards that have been taught in the home, they make better choices for their dating lives. God gives some great guidelines in His Word about dating and, as parents, we must reinforce these guidelines in order to offer our teens wisdom on dating. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Statistics show that when teens date non-Christians they are more likely to marry non-Christians. Several issues arise when our teens begin dating and parents often ask for advice. The following are some questions I have heard most often. First, at what age should a teen begin dating? While many factors must be taken into consideration, and each situation is different, accountability must be part of your decision.
Is your teen accountable for their dating life? Do they talk with you? Do they have a Christian mentor or other adult in their life with whom they will share their dating details?
If not, accountability must be put into place before dating begins. When your teen is ready to have someone remind them of Godly standards for their relationship, they may be ready to date. Having an adult who will talk with them about their temptations, and one who will pray with them about their relationship is a sign that your teen is ready to stand accountable for their dating life.
Some things may be tough to hear and you must be able to listen without criticism or judgment. This can be extremely difficult because we want the best for our children and they are a reflection of us. Others date because they are lacking a true sense of identity. Reminding our teens that they are complete with or without a date is important. Remind your teen of their special qualities, and reinforce the importance of finding someone to date who appreciates those positive qualities.
Too many times teens grow disappointed because their date does not live up to the fantasy planted in their mind by the media. Discuss reasonable and fair expectations of dating with your teen. Another great thing to do is have your teen list the qualities they are looking for in a future mate.
Not only will this initiate interesting discussion, it gives your teen something concrete to remember when making their choices. Teach your teen how to recognize others with positive qualities as well as how to identify those who may present themselves in one way, but live another. Remind your teen that they should want to date someone who will help them become the best they can be. More than likely, they did NOT include negative characteristics on their list of qualifications for a future mate.
Talk with your child about why they enjoy dating that individual. Keeping an open line of communication will help you know more of how your child is being affected in the relationship. Downgrading, fault-finding or belittling their date will only shut them off from you.
Listing their limits in the relationship will help your teen realize how little control they have over the person they are dating. I will warn you, however, that it may take longer than you hope for your teen to realize they cannot change their date.
This can be hard to watch as a parent, but stand by because they will need you soon enough. Frustrated, the mom decided to try a different approach. The mom told her daughter she could spend time with the older boy under one condition — she must be present everywhere they went. The daughter reluctantly consented, and the mom accompanied her at all times. Although it was somewhat taxing on the mom, it paid off. The older boy got tired of mom tagging along and decided to end the relationship.
Although the daughter was upset, she realized the older boy was not willing to make the sacrifice in order to spend time with her and the relationship dissolved. One in three teenagers report being hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their date. One in four teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse.
If you find that your teen is dating someone abusive or who is an addict, get professional help. These are areas that can force your teen onto a road they are not intended to travel. When your teen is with their date in your home, insist that they stay in rooms where others are present or where they may be easily accessed. All doors should remain open.
Let them know that you have expectations in your home and find out those of their home as well. This may help you in making decisions about where your teen spends most of their time.
Recommend that your teen and their date pray together. Teach your teen that being a good listener can make for a great date. Suggest your teen do a devotional with their date. For example, if your teen is dating someone of a different religion, recognizing that there are things they cannot agree on might ultimately be the end of the relationship. A museum, local zoo, going for coffee or ice cream, a carnival, a fair or a Christian concert are great alternatives for a fun dating experience. No more than two dates per week.
You must always inform your parents of your plans, as well as when plans change. Call your parents and if no answer, leave a message. Modest dress is a must for all dates. Parents, the most important thing to remember is to try to relax and help your teen enjoy these years. Some teens focus on careers, school work, scholarships and friendships before beginning their dating journey.
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