A parent's first line of defense against teenage sex and unplanned pregnancy is establishing firm rules in regards to dating. Discussing expectations with your tween or teen now, even before they express an interest in dating, can be a big part of your child's adolescent development. Create an open line of communication, and arm your teen with the information he or she needs to engage in healthy, age-appropriate relationships.
A parent's first line of defense against teenage sex is setting the rules for dating—and being firm about them. The following are some common-sense suggestions:
1. Insist on a slow start. Do what you can to discourage early, frequent, and steady dating at least until age 16.
Early, frequent, and steady dating is one of the single biggest risk factors for teenage sexual activity. Hold the line.
2. Establish dating rules and expectations. Establish rules early on for such things as curfews and dating activities—before your teen starts coming up with his or her own plans.
3. Teach your teen to date responsibly. Encourage your teenager to avoid sexually stimulating TV shows, videos, and movies when dating. Also, be sure to talk about inappropriate internet and texting behaviors.
Teach your teens to recognize manipulative language and reject lines such as, "If you really love me, you'll do this for me," or "You know we both want to, so don't act like such a prude." Also teach teens the dangers of using this type of language and behavior while dating.
4. Don't allow your teens to date older persons. Teenage girls tend to have their first sexual experiences with male partners who are three or more years older.
For teenage boys, their first sexual encounter is likely to be with girls who are less than a year older. Be a smart parent and encourage your kids to date persons in their same age group.
5. Have them date in groups. Encourage your teenager to hang out in groups. Or, talk with your teen about planning dates with a buddy or friend. Not only can double dates be double the fun, they also provide a helpful and safe partner for your teen, should one of them find themselves in a difficult or uncomfortable situation while on the date.
6. Always meet and greet. Insist that you meet the person dating your son or daughter each time before they go out. Invite your teen’s date to come in and chat with you about plans, where they’ll be going, curfew times, and driving rules. This will establish the message that you are watching.
7. Create and maintain an open dialogue with your teen. Check in with your teen on a daily basis and get a sense of their state of mind. Are they having a good day? How’s their relationship with their BFF? Are they excited or nervous about any upcoming events? Let them know that if they ever have any questions or concerns, they can always turn to you for support or advice. And let them know that if they’re not comfortable speaking with you, there are other trusted resource at their fingertips. For example, your child’s pediatrician or family doctor is a wealth of helpful info for your teen. He or she can answer questions and provide info on healthy habits to start now and maintain through their adult years. At your tween’s or teen’s next check-up, discuss with your family practitioner a plan for heading off diabetes, heart disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), and other preventable health issues that can surface later in life.