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Talking about the Big D

What you should know about discussing dating with your child.

If you’re a parent, you realize there are different challenges with each stage of child rearing.

It starts with diapers and sleepless nights, quickly moves to keeping your kid from eating whatever is within reach, and turns into late nights worrying about whether your child is making good decisions at college.

Somewhere in the middle, dating shows up. Instead of letting your youngsters face it alone, it’s a good idea to talk about dating to help your child survive and even thrive through the dating years.

When should you mention the big D, and how should you go about it?

Always remember this: ‘A kiss will never miss, and after many kisses, a miss becomes a misses.
- John Lennon

A Dating Timeframe

Think your child is too young to be attracted to the opposite sex? Think again. Every child is different. Therefore, while one child may begin thinking about dating at the age of 16, another may have boys or girls on the brain way before then.

When, then, should the topic of dating make its way to your kitchen table? The easy answer is whenever you feel your child is ready for it. If you begin talking about dating with your child and he or she seems grossed out by the thought of it, you may need to laugh at yourself and save it for another time. On the other hand, if your child seems interested—or at least not turned off by the topic—you’ve picked the right age.

Feel like you waited too long? It’s never too late to get started. After all, everyone makes mistakes, especially when having to make as many decisions as are required for parenting. Just get started with the talks now!

Making It Happen

So now that you realize the need for talking to your kids about dating, it’s time to tackle how to make it happen. There are two things to remember up front. First, dating conversations should be done in a natural way, not forcing the issue. Secondly, you may have to force the issue. Ah, sweet contradictions.
Ideally, your child will come to you to talk about dating. However, many kids don’t want to. But this doesn’t get you off the hook. In fact, it puts you more on the hook, because you now have to instigate the conversation.

Don’t let that scare you off, though. Because it doesn’t have to be a fright fest.

Just remember the following tips:

  • When you’re talking dating, nothing is off limits, so be prepared to field any and every question. Don’t tell your kid a question isn’t worth answering or that you’ll discuss the topic at a later date. You may not have another chance.
  • In the event your child asks a question you’re uncomfortable with answering, ask for clarification. The question may be more innocent than you think.
  • Be ready to give examples from your own past to drive your points home.
  • Let your kids know how you expect them to act when dating. Whether you hold convictions for religious or other reasons, let your child know this.
  • Do this on a regular basis. Your parents may have given you a once-in-a-lifetime birds-and-bees conversation, but talking about dating on a regular basis will make your kids more likely to bring questions and concerns to you.

Ears Open, Ready to Love

As you talk to your child about dating, you will likely be tempted to lecture. But remember—when your child is out of your sight, he or she is going to have to make decisions without you. So instead of doing all the talking, make sure your dating talks have plenty of give and take. Ask what your child thinks about whatever specific topic you’re discussing and then...listen. Only after your youngster is finished should you give your thoughts, and again, back your ideas up with personal examples of why you think that way.

And when your child does things a little different than you would have, remember to love him or her. No matter what happens in the dating world, kids need their parents. It’s okay to tell your child when he or she did wrong, but you need to let them know that despite their poor choices, you still love them and always will.