Parents on teen dating
We caught up with two local experts on teen relationships and sexuality and asked for their tips on setting guidelines for kids entering the dating game.
Lynn Ponton, University of California San Francisco professor of adolescent psychiatry and author of The Sex Lives of Teenagers and The Romance of Risk, and Nancy Brown, a developmental psychologist and education projects manager for Palo Alto Medical Foundation, both agree: Parents should set the stage for safe dating long before their child becomes a teen.
Statewide, only 20 percent of kids ages 14 to 17 have had sex, according to the California Health Interview Survey.
Thinking that everyone else is doing it can push kids to become sexually active too young.
“Say, ‘I want us as a family to decide how we’re going to handle this,’” Brown says.
“‘Let’s think about it for a few days and meet on a Saturday to talk it through.’” Parents shouldn’t go into it thinking they’re going to lay down the law.
If parents want to reduce the likelihood that their teens are having sex, they should help arrange for them to stay busy with academics and after-school activities under adult supervision.
But realize that parental influence on teenagers is limited and that you have a duty to provide the information they need to stay safe no matter what they choose.
Model Healthy Relationships Being a good role model to our kids as we interact with our spouses and others is the first step toward ensuring they’ll develop healthy connections as teens and adults, Ponton and Brown say.
Enforcing rigid gender stereotypes or engaging in harmful relations ourselves can set our kids up for relationship woes later on.
“Plus, preteens can be more open to our suggestions.” Some preteens, especially those who go through puberty early, may begin to receive attention from the opposite sex, Brown says.
If they’re not ready, encourage them to say, “I’m not interested.” &pagebreaking& Hold a Family Meeting When you think your child will be dating in a year or so, it’s time for another talk.
&pagebreaking& Some parents may want to address the risks directly, such as by placing a box of condoms in the bathroom.