Dating. Just one simple word is enough to strike fear in thousands of parents across the nation. I’ve had various opinions about dating over the years. When I was a teenager, of course, I was very much in favor of the concept. When our children were small, we decided we would allow them to date… when they were 30.

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As they became teenagers, our decisions about relationships, dating included, found a healthy balance. We put more weight into training up confident, capable, Christian men and women and less into creating restrictions. What we found at the end of our journey were men and women who thrived within their social circles and found pleasure in meeting new friends. The road wasn’t always easy, but here are a few tips we found helpful when walking our teens through the tough waters of social relationships.

Know Your Child

Have you heard the old saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”? Well, that’s not actually the case. All teens, even teens from the same family, will mature in different ways at different times. Knowing your child’s ability to behave appropriately in a variety of situations will be important as you help them navigate their way toward becoming an adult.

Know Their Friends

It is always easier to allow your children the freedom to experience a variety of situations when you know the friends they are sharing the experience with. Take time to get to know your children’s peers. Who do they spend their downtime with? Why do they enjoy being friends? Learn about their family and discover the things that are most important to them. Only then will you know when to allow freedom or restrict their interaction. There are some GREAT kids out there if you slow down long enough to get to know them!

To Date or Not To Date

The topic of dating has been a source of conversation and question among parents for many, many years. Some rely on the experience of veteran parents to mentor their every step, while others choose to look at their own experiences growing up and form their opinions based upon their lessons learned. For our teens, the concept of group dating provided a safe space for young adults to get to know members of the opposite sex and form friendships while doing so in a relaxed environment. They had the opportunity to develop friendships and closer, personal relationships without the risk of awkward silence or unwanted physical situations.

Teenagers who learn to cherish quality friendships will continue to look for those types of relationships well into adulthood. By allowing them to develop these relationships while they are still under your guidance creates an opportunity for you to help them navigate difficult topics and find honest answers to questions about marriage, sex, and courtship.

My father always told me that I wouldn’t marry everyone I dated, but I would date the one I married. I thought it was pretty silly at the time, but his words were true. The method a family chooses for teaching your teens about special relationships isn’t as important as teaching them to love God first. Embrace this season with excitement, truth, and love. Your future daughter or son-in-law will thank you, and so will your child. It’s worth the effort!

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