These guidelines can make it a little less awkward–and even more informative!–to talk to your guys and girls about dating responsibly.
For girls, stress that they have every right to say no to anything sexual or romantic that doesn't feel right to them. They can also say yes when the time comes, but they shouldn't feel pressured to move faster than they want to.
For boys, do what you can to offset cultural pressures to prove their masculinity by having sex and being tough. Boys have tender feelings just like everyone else—make sure your son knows it's normal to care about romantic partners, and to be kind and gentle.
Explain dating and financial responsibility.
Okay, so now that you’ve talked to your kids about all those other difficult and thought-provoking topics, don’t forget to talk about money. Financial responsibility and dating go hand-in-hand. So whether your teenager has a job or an allowance, now’s a good time to touch base about their finances. In Eirene Heidelberger’s words, and as she might have said to her now 14-year-old son, “if you want to have this social life, you need to pay for part of it.”
Talk about how to treat romantic partners.
It's important for parents to talk with teens about how you expect them to treat other people, especially romantic partners. My research with young adults found that teens really want guidance from their parents about this, Whiney says. Don't lecture but do tell them what you believe and why, she advises.
Reiterate consent is everything and more.
The #MeToo movement has made teens much more aware of consent as an issue, but many of them are confused about what consent looks like in practice, Whitney says. Be sure your teen, of any gender, knows that when a partner says “no” or expresses reluctance about any sexual activity, they need to stop. Pressuring someone is not okay. Kids need to know that they have every right to say “no” and be taken seriously. Boys, especially, need to know that failing to respect someone's “no” can have legal ramifications and does serious emotional harm to the other person, Whitney advises. If he wants to be a good guy, he needs to believe his partner when she says “no.” The time is right only when both people say an enthusiastic “yes.”
Ensure your teen knows about safe sex.
It was Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy video on YouTube, “To Our Daughter,” that led to an impromptu check-in between Heidelberger and her son about safe sex. The video, uploaded on Feb. 4, 2018, announced the birth of Jenner’s daughter with her boyfriend, Travis Scott, when they were 20 and 25, respectively.
“He was like, ‘I can’t believe they had a baby. They’re so young!’”
“I was like, ‘No kidding—you know how to use condoms, right?’”
“He was like, ‘Yeah mom, I know.’”
Heidelberger, a certified parenting coaching specialist who founded GIT Mom (Get It Together, Mom), is a mother of three sons. Her oldest, the 14-year-old, keeps his parents relatively in the loop about his weekly movie dates with his girlfriend. When it comes to talking to her son about sensitive subjects, Heidelberger has a simple approach that works for her.
“Ask one basic question, and just stop talking.” Her advice is to let them structure the conversation, and that means encouraging both their questions for you, and the information they already know. Finally, Heidelberger says, have an exit strategy! Think about the way you’d like to end the conversation, then be ready to gracefully leave the room and move on with your day.
When you start to have these important talks within your family, you will, undoubtedly, feel awkward at first. But as with everything, things get easier with practice. One way to start these conversations, Whitney offers, is to say, “I just want to be on the record that…” or “You probably already know this, but I want to make sure…” However you start, it’s much more important to talk openly than to say everything perfectly.
Growing up means something different to every new generation of young adults. As your children come of age, make your home a place where they can experience those differences without judgement—like, for example, the way they might prefer to text you rather than answer your calls. Preparing for this stretch of parenting can be stressful—but at least you don’t have to be a teenager again.