When my wife and I thought our daughter was ready to date, our daughter was in panic mode before the first boy came to pick her up. She wasn’t worried about the boy; she was worried about me.
Dad, are you going to grill him and ask him a million questions?
No Sweetie. I’m just going to ask him one question.
Really Dad? Just one question? Wow!
Yup. “Where are WE going?”
Not funny, Dad.
The reality is that WE aren’t going anywhere. THEY are. How do you know if your teen has a healthy understanding of dating, how to get to know someone, and will exercise healthy dating habits? Here’s a little quiz for your teen to pass before they start dating that will also provide you as a parent with some great talking points.
ARE YOU READY TO START DATING?
1. What is the purpose of dating?
- To have fun.
- To find someone to marry.
- There is no purpose. It’s just what teens do.
- To learn how to get to know someone.
Answer Key: Although you want your teen to have fun while dating (a lot of fun), the best answer here is, “To learn how to get to know someone.” Make sure your teen knows that there is a level of “fakeness” built into dating, especially at the beginning. This doesn’t mean people are being deceptive or dishonest, BUT both parties are trying to put the best version of themselves forward while possibly (probably) hiding parts of their real self and any of their flaws. Everyone is trying to sell an image of themselves. Getting to know someone takes time. It means seeing them in a variety of situations and paying attention to how they treat a variety of people—besides you. Oh, and marriage is like 15 years away.
2. How long does it take to really get to know someone?
- First impressions are everything.
- Their social media accounts show who they really are.
- Five or so dates.
- It really depends.
Answer Key: First impressions are important but can be totally misleading. So can social media. Some people post about their friends, family, hobbies, and little snapshots of their life. Some people create and curate a digital self-image that is far from reality. The bottom line is that it really depends. Assuming they treat your teen great because they are interested in them, your teen wants to watch for the following in who they date.
Watch for how they…
- Treat their parents.
- Act when they’re told, “No.”
- Treat their siblings.
- Treat their friends.
- Respond to criticism.
- Treat authority figures.
- Treat people who wrong them.
- Handle when things go wrong.
- Treat people in need.
- Respond to disagreements.
3. Your main goal in a dating relationship should be:
- Developing social skills
- Taking your time
- Growing emotionally
- Staying true to yourself
Answer Key: Trick question! Your teen’s goal in a dating relationship should be all of the above! If any of those things are NOT happening, it’s a bad sign. They should be growing into their best self. They shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured into anything, and their social skills should be developing as they learn how to interact with people.
4. If there isn’t anybody in your life you’re truly interested in dating…
- Settle for the best you can get
- Explore online dating sites
- Lower your standards
- Hang out with your friends and pursue other interests
Answer Key: Your teen never wants to settle or lower their standards just so they can be dating someone. And they have no business being on some online dating site.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with not dating. Lots of people aren’t doing it. Your teen is probably avoiding a ton of drama while they have more time to hang out with their friends and pursue their interests, hobbies, and passions. And let’s not forget school. And more family time. It’s better to not be dating at all than to be dating the wrong person. Don’t settle!
5. The best qualities or traits that you bring into dating are your…
- Hotness and popularity
- Personality and sense of humor
- Character and values
- Maturity and intelligence
Answer Key: Anything except (A.) is a great answer! Any fisherman will tell you that the bait you use will determine what you catch. Before your teen is ready to get to know someone else, they need to know who they are. They need to value and respect themselves, understand their strengths and growth areas, and have a strong sense of identity. Ask them follow-up questions about their personality, character, values, and maturity. Make them be as specific as possible and cultivate their self-awareness.
6. “Red Flags” in a dating relationship would include…
- Constantly wants to know where you are and who you’re with.
- Tries to keep you away from your family and friends.
- Pressures you to go beyond your personal boundaries.
- Tells you how to dress.
- Tells you who you can be friends with or talk to.
- Puts you down a lot, even in a “joking” way.
- Blames you for every relationship problem or issue.
- Is not dependable, trustworthy, or honest.
- Makes you feel like you can’t be yourself with them.
- Makes you nervous that you’re going to do something to upset them or make them mad all the time.
- Wants to check your phone to see who you are talking to.
Answer Key: There are more “red flags” but those are all some important ones. What you want is for your teen to have healthy dating habits and be able to recognize a healthy relationship, an unhealthy relationship, and an abusive relationship. You want to know that your teen has a strong sense of their boundaries—both emotionally and physically—and can stick to them. The two of you might want to agree on a code word or phrase that if they say it in a call or text while on a date, you know they need to get out of a situation immediately.
You can’t get your teen ready for dating with a quiz. What you want is an ongoing conversation that continues throughout their dating life and sets them up for healthy dating habits. You know your teen better than anybody. You can help them get the fundamentals of dating so that dating is a healthy part of their teenage years that helps prepare them for adulthood. Trust me, you’ve got this!