While John Mayer may not be the role model fathers are looking towards, he certainly has mothers and fathers alike getting teary-eyed as he sings, “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.”
My mind immediately flashed to the weddings I attended as I watched brides and their fathers sway to such a sweet song. I admittedly think of my own daughters on their wedding days, hopefully lightening years away, marrying someone as sweet as their own father.
“Twenty-seven.” “Forty.” “Never.” The answers many teen girls reveal when talking about the age their fathers say they can date. How protective they are.
And to a degree, rightfully so. Men know what it is like to be a boy and would never allow anyone close to their own child who may represent the male pubescent side of who they used to be.
So when is it OK for teens to start dating? While “never” seems like a good answer to many parents, they are asking for a host of defiance, sneaking out, anger, shutting down and all other sorts of feelings and behaviors which arise when teens are ready to take a step towards growing up.
Going slow might be a good step for parents and a good step for teens as they begin to embark on this new social venture. Group dates or hosting boy/girl get togethers at your house is a good first step. You can dictate the pace of slow.
With any new privilege teens need to show responsibility and an ability to follow the rules set forth. If a parent catches their child making out, you now have an open window to talk about a multitude of things. Seize the opportunity to give your child information and process acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Yes, they will hate this. You may too. Teens still need guidance and hear the message of what is OK and not OK.
Sure teens get fuel on breaking the rules and making parents crazy, but deep inside, they carry our words. Adults help create their conscience. If parents say nothing, it gives teens silent permission. Be the voice of experience and reason. Keep it short and offer an open door policy for them to talk with you anytime.
There is no right answer as to when teens should be allowed to date. The fact is, dating can mean so many things. Talk with your teen and be open to their needs and ideas and look towards negotiating if their requests are a little out of the box.