So your 14 year old son wants to go on a date with his 13 year old girlfriend! What?!?! Your hard and fast rule is no dating until 18 and no holding hands till 21! You have always envisioned a courtship, long engagement and a far in the distant future marriage. You had no idea attraction to the opposite sex and all the minefields of time spent with the opposite sex were so close on your “Parental Horizon!” So what do you do? How do you handle this new found desire on the part of your son or daughter? He has discovered girls, she has discovered boys! The “Pandora’s Box” is opened and there’s no return!
Most of us remember our first crush, girlfriend or boyfriend. The adrenaline rush and infatuation felt during the days of “puppy love” are deeply imprinted upon our heart and mind forever. This is why it is often said, and with a great deal of truth, “You never forget your first love.” But the power of adrenaline, along with the rush of hormones puberty brings, is often a recipe for disaster. Unsupervised time with the opposite sex and unguided tours through this tumultuous time of life can leave your preteen or teen with a lifetime of consequences. So what do we do to help our not so childlike yet not yet grown up kids navigate the world of the opposite sex? How can we keep the safe while helping them learn the proper way to honor and respect the opposite sex?
Setting Boundaries for Teens with the Opposite Sex
- Allow Supervised Group Dates — If you do not allow this you will lose an incredibly important teachable moment in the life of your son or daughter. These are not real “dates” by most definitions of the word. These are times for social interaction in a supervised atmosphere where your son can learn the importance of opening doors, pulling out chairs, listening to his date and joy of having good fun with a young girl. This is a time when a girl can learn how she is supposed to be treated and respected by a young man who shows interest in her. She can experience what it is to be valued and respected while learning to honor and appreciate her male counterpart.
- Debrief — After supervised group dates take some time to talk with your child about the experience. One mother I know did this recently and helped her son realize that in light of the fact that the girl he was spending time with was unlikely to be his wife he should treat her in a way he would want his future wife treated by a young man with whom she may be spending time. This conversation exemplifies one way the supervised group date can provide opportunity for conversation and teachable moments which allow the parent to guide their child both now and for the future.
- Supervise Social Media Interaction — Your young teen needs to understand that you will be regularly looking at his or her social media account. I mean by this that you will be logging into his or her account. There should be no social media without open access for mom and dad. No young teen needs the temptation of unsupervised access to social media. And if you young boy or girl is “spending time” with someone who has blocked you from seeing his or her social media account, i.e. look at their wall, etc…then such relationship ends…today!
- Supervise Email and Text Messaging — I know a father who once told his sons that he would regularly inspect their text messages. He told the boys that if they deleted their text messages between sessions of inspection they would be grounded from their phone. Deleted email folders should be emptied only by mom or day. These “draconian” rules may seem harsh to your young teen but they are reasonable if they are to have access to something as powerful as the internet.
- Browser History — I am throwing this in here even though it may seem a little out of place. You need to know where your child is doing his or her surfing on the internet. If you find the browser history deleted someone needs to be grounded from the computer. This is a site you might find helpful.
- Get to Know Mom and Dad — Your son or daughter is spending time with someone of the opposite sex and presumably they have a mother and father of their own. It is important that you get to know your counterparts in this relationship so you can know whether or not they share you passion for Christ and beliefs on relationships of the opposite sex. If they do not share your beliefs and values you cannot depend upon them to be a part of the acceptable supervisory role of the young teen “couple.”
- Song of Solomon Series — This series by Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church may seem a little advanced for your young teen but its potential value is such that I am of the belief it should be shown early and often to preteens and teens. The primary audience is an adult one but who can argue that our teens are bombarded with the issues of relationship and sex at a much earlier age than ever before. They need this material to offset the unbiblical ideas they are hearing elsewhere. Tommy Nelson is a fantastic teacher/preacher and parents and children alike will reap benefit from watching it. Watch it with your child and have open and frank discussions accordingly.
I hope and pray you find these points helpful! God has placed you in the life of your child with a great purpose in mind. YOU are their parent and that responsibility is a sacred trust given by their creator. Prayerfully consider how you might coach, teach and encourage your child to have healthy relationships with the opposite sex. The opportunity to do so comes much earlier than we might think…or want!
More on Parenting Teens (and Tweens)