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Dating is a big deal for most teenagers. 

Many parents will tell you that questions like, “When will I be old enough to date? And when I date, what time will I have to be home?” start coming long before their teen is really old enough to date. Some parents go to great lengths putting rules in place for dating. There’s even been a show on the topic – Eight Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Regardless of the dating age in your household, perhaps the most important question is, “Is your teen prepared to date?”

“In our rush to teach young people sex education, I believe we have left out some of the important basics like: If you have a crush on someone, how do you let them know you like them? How do you start a conversation? How can you tell if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy?” says Marline Pearson, author of Increasing Your Relationship Smarts, part of Love U 2, a comprehensive relationship curriculum.

“Teens are on a journey to learn about love, relationships, themselves and their emerging sexuality. As they jump into relationships, teens are in the throes of powerful feelings of attraction, rejection and a myriad of other emotions. Most teens want affection, respect, love and connection. Yet, our young people get little guidance on navigating the world of teen relationships and the sexual culture. While we tell them what to say ‘no’ to, we do too little to help teens build the healthy relationships to which they can say ‘yes.’”

Pearson believes we need to help teens understand things like infatuation. Yes, you have strong, wonderful feelings, but you won’t see clearly for 3-6 months. It could be the first step to love, but it isn’t love at first. When you think you are falling in love with somebody, you are really falling in love with an image of who you think the person is at first. You have to put in some time to see if your snapshot is accurate.

Since most teens want to date, they are usually willing to participate in any conversation they believe will help them reach this goal. Parents can take advantage of this place in time to prepare their teens for dating.

If you want to help your teen develop a low-risk dating strategy, try Pearson’s tips below.

  • Seek a good match: Look for common interests. Pay attention to how the person acts. Do you find them interesting?

  • Pay attention to values: People give off clues all the time as to the values they hold. A relationship is doomed if the other person shuns your values.

  • Don’t try to change the other person: Performing an extreme makeover on another person never works. Sometimes people are so desperate to be in love they try to make you into something you are not.

  • Don’t change yourself: Don’t be somebody you are not just to get somebody’s love and attention. If you find yourself trying to alter who you are to get someone’s love, that is a problem.

  • Don’t run from conflict: Expect good communication.

  • Don’t play games, manipulate, pressure, be phony or use power plays to get what you want.

  • Ask yourself these questions: Does this relationship feel controlling or nurturing and supportive? If physical touch wasn’t part of the relationship, would there be a relationship?

  • Have a bottom line: You need to have a bottom line for how you expect to be treated. Never tolerate abuse. Expect respect. People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you.

“Teens today live and breathe in a culture emphasizing casual sex and casual connections where no relationship can be trusted to last and where even the most important family bonds can’t be counted on,” Pearson says. 

“Teens are short on positive models. They have few road maps that will lead them into healthy relationships and away from destructive ones. Teaching your teen about committed and healthy love relationships is one of the greatest gifts you can give them and it will last a lifetime.”

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here

When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene, they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they knew that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out.

“I used to make fun of people who went online to find a date,” says Kate. “Once I got to the point that regular dating wasn’t successful, I decided to give it a try. For me, it made the whole process so much easier.”

A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago indicated that 33 percent of couples who married met online. And, a Pew Research study in 2013 revealed that 59 percent of Americans believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.

When Kate and Kyle met online, they initially communicated by email. After sending emails back and forth, Kyle asked for permission to call Kate. They talked by phone for several weeks and when both felt comfortable, they decided to meet in person.

“I went to her house where her roommates were present and then we went out on our date,” says Kyle. “We made sure everyone knew where we were.”

Kate and Kyle met on Valentine’s Day 2008 and dated for a year before getting engaged on Valentine’s Day 2009. They wonder if their paths would have ever crossed without the online dating site.

If you are considering dating online, keeping yourself safe is a concern. These tips from Online Dating Magazine can help you safely navigate the world of online dating:

  • Arrange to meet in a public place – Never allow your date to pick you up from your home, and do not give out your home address. Consider going out with a group or on a double date when you first meet.
  • Go Dutch – This way you won’t feel any obligation to “return” the favor.
  • Realize that alcohol affects your judgment – Not only does it affect your judgment, but alcohol also lessens your inhibitions. Try to avoid alcohol on your first date.
  • Use your own mode of transportation – If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t have to rely on your date to get you home.
  • Don’t assume that your date is safe – Never let your guard down on a first date.
  • Avoid secluded areas – Stay in a public place for your first date and avoid secluded areas such as parks.
  • Listen to your gut – If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so leave immediately.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going – You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in.
  • Give your cell phone number – It’s safer to give out a cell phone number instead of your landline (if you still have one).
  • Always remain alert – Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.

No matter how you meet, taking your time can help you make wiser choices when it comes to choosing a mate.

If you have teens in your life, this topic is worth your time and attention.

In a healthy dating relationship skills class for teens, the facilitator asked the participants what they do when they get angry at their boyfriend or girlfriend. One young man spoke up and said, “I just choke her.”

Sadly, violence is a reality in many teen dating relationships.

According to a study commissioned by Liz Claiborne and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2008:

  • 1 in 3 teenagers knows a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner;

  • 62 percent of tweens (age 11-14) who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.) by a boyfriend or girlfriend;

  • Only half of tweens claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship;

  • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up; and

  • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

National Center for Victims of Crime studies indicate that teen dating violence runs across race, gender and socioeconomic lines. Males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways. Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick. Boys injure girls more severely and frequently.

A comparison of intimate partner violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at higher risk in intimate partner abuse.

Is your teen at risk? 

Does he or she know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? Would you recognize the symptoms? Many parents say they don’t know the warning signs of teen dating violence.

If you are wondering whether or not your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, here are some warning signs from the Break the Cycle website:

  • She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.

  • Your teen loses interest in activities she used to enjoy.

  • She stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.

  • When your daughter and her boyfriend are together, he calls her names and puts her down in front of other people.

  • He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially other guys.

  • A young man thinks or tells your daughter that you (her parents) don’t like him.

  • He controls her behavior, checks up on her constantly, calls and pages her, demanding to know who she has been with.

  • She casually mentions his violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.

  • You see him violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects.

  • She often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don’t make sense.

Teens need to understand that hitting a girlfriend or boyfriend is a crime. In the vast majority of teen dating violence, the female is the victim. However, this conversation shouldn’t only take place with female teens. This is an important conversation for parents to have with their sons and daughters.

A number of excellent resources are available to help you discuss dating violence together, including breakthecycle.org. The site has a parent’s guide for talking to your teen, statistics, warning signs and additional resources. 

Being aware of the warning signs of violence and taking action can prevent the wrong types of relationships from happening. It can also end the abuse cycle for teens who are in the midst of it.

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here

It is vital for young people to set and stick to dating standards as they build relationships. The role of a parent is that of teacher and encourager, not dictator.

Before your child gets to the level of maturity where he or she is ready to date, you should decide upon your dating standards. Determine how old your teenager must be to date. Set a curfew and describe in advance what the consequences will be for breaking this curfew and STICK TO THEM.

Additional expectations should be that your teen must always tell you:

  • Where he/she will be;

  • A phone number or numbers where he/she can be reached;

  • Who he/she is going out with;

  • What they will be doing; and

  • When he/she will return.

  • If they don’t know the answers to these questions, they don’t go out on the date.

  • If he/she is going to be late, a courtesy phone call is expected to let you know about the situation; this does not excuse coming in after curfew and the consequences set.

  • If your teenager is a female, let her know in advance that you expect her dates to come to the door to get her and to meet her parents.

  • Your teen should always carry enough money to get a cab/bus ride home if necessary.

Items for discussion before your teen dates:

  • Why does he/she want to date?

  • What does he/she hope to have happen?

  • Has your teen considered group dating? What are the benefits of group dating?

  • If you have a daughter preparing to date, does she have an emergency plan in case her date becomes forceful or violent? The “It won’t happen to me” plan is not good enough.

  • Encourage a first-date activity to be something that provides opportunity for lots of conversation.

  • Talk with your teenager about treating their date with respect. What does that look like?

  • Discuss the potential for hormonally-charged situations and how to avoid them.

  • What kind of messages might your teenager send by the kind of clothes they are or are not wearing? If you are the father of a teenage daughter, think about this subject very carefully, and make sure your daughter knows that men can be easily aroused by…you fill in the blanks for her. Instruct your sons to be respectful.

  • Who will be paying for the date? The parents or the teenager? What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a date? Instruct your teenager that just because someone buys them dinner doesn’t mean they owe them anything.

  • Make sure your teenager knows that you are there for them and willing to listen if they need to talk.

  • If your teenager is female, talk about the dangers of dating guys much older than them.

  • Discuss the idea that dating is about developing a growing friendship–NOT about having sexual involvement.

For tips on parenting, get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here

When it comes to romancing your mate for special holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays, some couples have a head start on the celebration. Why? They’ve discovered that making regular time for each other is linked to lots of relationship benefits.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a 2012 report released by the National Marriage Project, couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week:

  • Are markedly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another;
  • Are about three times more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • State that they have a highly satisfying sexual relationship compared to couples who spend less couple time together; and
  • Take that time as a chance to de-stress and engage in novel activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing – from hiking or dancing to cooking together or playing cards.

Regular date nights probably benefit couples most when they do more than dinner and a movie. Doing fun things together feels good, and your brain associates these times with pleasure.

Report co-author W. Bradford Wilcox states that:

  • The couples who find date night particularly valuable are those who are less integrated into the local civic or religious fabric of their communities and those who are less committed to one another; and
  • Couples with a more fragile foundation for their marriage need to devote more time to one another to keep their marriage strong.

It is always a good time to celebrate your own marriage and/or the marriages of those around you. Marriage is like anything else in life… cars, plants, or your body. If you don’t do preventive maintenance, a major overhaul could be on the horizon.

Most marriages begin with romantic love that is linked to passion, excitement and an overwhelming attraction to each other. Over time the passion fades, but date nights have the potential to take your ho-hum marriage and make it spicy and meaningful again.

If couple time hasn’t been a part of your regular routine, here’s a challenge:

  • Start by making a 6-week commitment to set aside an hour or two each week for a date night.
  • Agree that you won’t talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Just play together.
  • At the end of the six weeks, take time to discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

Who knows? “Couple time” might surprise you with the difference it makes in your relationship.

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Prior to her current position as non-resident research associate at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, Donna Freitas was a professor. While teaching a dating and spirituality class, she became intrigued with the hookup culture on college campuses.

Her students often talked about how great hooking up was and that everybody was doing it. Following spring break, students discussed what happened over the break. One woman who hooked up all the time said, “I hook up a lot. Not sure why I do it. I don’t like it.” One by one, other students said they felt the same way.

This sent Freitas on a quest to discover if her students were different from students on other college campuses.

For nine years, Freitas has traveled to college campuses to talk with students about sex and hooking up. Freitas interviewed students at private secular, public and Catholic colleges and universities. Her findings shed light on what drives the hookup culture.

Forty-five percent of student interviewees said young adults believe they are expected to be casual about sex in college. Thirty-six percent thought their peers were too casual about sex. When asked about the definition of a hookup, students preferred a very broad definition because of the pressure to hook up. They defined it as anything from kissing to sex.

Freitas also discovered an official social contract surrounding hooking up.

  • Hookups must be brief, which could mean five minutes in the corner kissing or a quickie in the restroom.

  • Those involved are to feel zero emotion to avoid attachment. They think communicating is bad, because it could lead to feeling, which is completely against the rules.

  • Hooking up often involves alcohol. Many students said that without alcohol, nobody would ever get together.

When asked about their attitudes concerning hookups, 41 percent said they were profoundly unhappy. Another 23 percent expressed ambivalence about their feelings toward the experience, and 36 percent said they were more or less fine with it.

Many students said that hookups were efficient because they were really busy, over-scheduled and always on the go. They really didn’t have time for relationships in college so hookups were an efficient way to get sex. Yet when Freitas asked students about dating, both men and women said that nobody dates on campus, but that they wished they would. In reality, many respondents said if someone would ask them out on a date they would go. There was much interest in dating, but the students felt like they couldn’t date. Additionally, Freitas said there was so much yearning for romance and a connection of knowing and being known.

So what is the response to the hookup culture? Freitas makes these three recommendations:

  • Teach young adults to slow down. Many students go and do without thinking which perpetuates the hookup culture.

  • Press the pause button. Encourage them to take a break, if only for the weekend, from the party culture.

  • Start talking about love, romance, dating, intimacy and relationship skills. Most young people lack relationship skills, unwittingly advancing the hookup culture.

For tips on parenting, get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen.” Download Here

During a young mom’s conversation with her 8-year-old daughter about her school day, the girl revealed she had a boyfriend. In her infinite wisdom, Mom said, “You are really too young to have a boyfriend. You should have lots of boys as friends at your age.”

The little girl sighed and said, “I know, but when I am 14, I will be old enough to date.” Somewhat surprised by the comment, the mother asked her daughter what you do on a date. Without hesitation, the daughter said, “You have sex.”

With all kinds of thoughts reeling through her head, the mother asked where she got that idea. The little girl said she had heard it from school friends who heard it from their older siblings.

That mother was shocked. But, should this really be a surprise? Have you ever talked with your teen about the purpose of dating or what happens during a date?

In an informal teen survey, many stated that the only dating conversation they’d had with their parents was about curfew and expectations concerning drinking and driving. Many parents believe that, “Nobody talked to me about dating and I turned out pretty good so what’s the big deal?”

Studies show that teenagers crave intimacy, and that adolescents start to date between 12 and 14 years old. In 1924, the average age was 16.

Research, however, has shown that serious adolescent relationships before either partner is emotionally mature can detrimentally affect identity formation – and even life and health. And, adolescents who date because of peer pressure or a need to belong can experience significant disappointment.

Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, broken hearts and depression are common themes among those who work with teens. Plus, an estimated 15 percent of teen suicides are due to the breakup of an unhappy dating relationship.

When teens receive mixed messages from many directions about relationships, having parents who are willing to engage in a discussion about dating smarts is definitely a plus.

In his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, Sean Covey defines the difference in intelligent dating and brainless dating.

Intelligent dating is dating successfully, being selective about who you date, hanging out and having fun, remaining steady through the natural highs and lows of romance, and keeping your own standards,” says Covey. “Brainless dating is dating ineffectively, dating anyone who has a pulse, becoming centered on your girlfriend or boyfriend, having your heart broken repeatedly, and doing what everyone else seems to be doing.”

Studies indicate that many of today’s teens are taking dating far too seriously. One out of three teenage girls report experiencing physical violence from a dating partner. Yet many of them stay in the relationship stating, “But I love him,” or “A bad relationship is better than no relationship at all.” Instead of understanding that teen dating is about meeting many different people and that breaking up is not a sign of failure, they’re convinced they will find Mr. or Mrs. Right in high school. Truthfully, very few people actually marry their high school sweetheart.

These six guidelines from Covey for intelligent dating are great jumping off points for discussion between parents and teens:

  • Don’t date too young – Dating too young can lead various problems, including getting taken advantage of, getting physical too soon, or not knowing how to end a relationship.

  • Date people your own age – Dating someone who is several years older than you isn’t healthy.

  • Get to know lots of people – Getting too serious too soon can cut you off from other relationships. Don’t be too eager to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Date a lot of different people and have fun.

  • Date in groups – Group activities are often more fun, and there is safety in numbers.

  • Set boundaries – Choose what kind of people you will date BEFORE you start dating. Decide what is off limits and don’t change your mind for anyone.

  • Have a plan – Before going on a date, prepare for the unexpected.

Teaching teens dating basics early on can save them a lot of heartache. In addition to talking with parents, adolescents can also benefit from healthy dating relationship skills classes.

These classes teach the fundamental components of establishing healthy and stable interpersonal relationships with family, friends, dating partners, and eventually, husbands and wives. Additionally, they help adolescents recognize important factors in healthy relationships. And hopefully, the skills they learn can equip teens to make thoughtful decisions about relationships before entering into marriage.

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has reviewed research about parental influences on children’s sexual behavior and talked to many experts in the field, as well as to teens and parents themselves. From these sources, it is clear that there is much parents and adults can do to reduce the risk of children becoming pregnant before they’ve grown up.

Presented here as “10 tips,” many of these lessons will seem familiar because they articulate what parents already know from experience – like the importance of maintaining strong, close relationships with children and teens, setting clear expectations for them and communicating honestly and often with them about important matters.

Finally, although these tips are for parents, they can be used by adults more generally in their relationships with teenagers.

So, what to do?

1.  Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes.

Communicating with your children about sex, love and relationships is often more successful when you are certain in your own mind about these issues. To help clarify your attitudes and values, think about the following kinds of questions:

  • What do you really think about school-aged teenagers being sexually active – perhaps even becoming parents?
  • Who is responsible for setting sexual limits in a relationship and how is that done realistically?
  • Were you sexually active as a teenager and how do you feel about that now?
  • Were you sexually active before you were married?
  • What do such reflections lead you to say to your own children about these issues?
  • What do you think about encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex?
  • How do you feel about teenagers using contraceptives?

2.  Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific.

Children have lots of questions about sex, and they often say that the source they’d most like to go to for answers is their parents. Start the conversation, and make sure that it is honest, open and respectful. If you can’t think of how to start the discussion, consider using situations shown on television or in the movies as conversation starters. Tell them candidly and confidently what you think and why you take these positions; if you’re not sure about some issues, tell them that, too. Be sure to have a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct misconceptions. Ask what, if anything, worries them.

Age-appropriate conversations about relationships and intimacy should begin early in a child’s life and continue through adolescence. Resist the idea that there should be just one conversation about all this – you know – “the talk.” The truth is that parents and children should be talking about sex and love all along. This applies to sons and daughters and to mothers and fathers, incidentally. All children need a lot of communication, guidance and information about these issues, even if they sometimes don’t appear to be interested in what you have to say. And if you have regular conversations, you won’t worry so much about making a mistake or saying something not quite right, because you’ll always be able to talk again.

Many inexpensive books and videos are available to help with any detailed information you might need, but don’t let your lack of technical information make you shy. Children need as much help in understanding the meaning of sex as they do in understanding how all the body parts work. Tell them about love and sex, and what the difference is. And remember to talk about the reasons that children find sex interesting and enticing; discussing only the “downside” of unplanned pregnancy and disease misses many of the issues on teenagers’ minds.

Here are the kinds of questions children say they want to discuss:

  • How do I know if I’m in love?
  • Will sex bring me closer to my girlfriend/boyfriend?How will I know when I’m ready to have sex?
  • Should I wait until marriage?
  • Will having sex make me popular?
  • Will it make me more grown-up and open up more adult activities for me?
  • Can I tell my boyfriend/girlfriend that I don’t want to have sex without losing him/her or hurting his feelings?
  • How do I manage pressure from my boyfriend/girlfriend to have sex?
  • How does contraception work?
  • Are some methods better than others? Are they safe?
  • Can you get pregnant the first time?

3.  In addition to being an askable parent, be a parent with a point of view. Tell your children what you think. Don’t be reluctant to say, for example:

  • I think kids in high school are too young to have sex, especially given today’s risk.
  • Our family religion says that sex should be an expression of love within marriage.
  • Finding yourself in a sexually-charged situation is not unusual; you need to think about how you’ll handle it in advance. Have a plan. Will you say “no?” Will you use contraception? How will you negotiate all this?
  • It’s okay to think about sex and to feel sexual desire. Everybody does! But it’s not okay to get pregnant /get somebody pregnant as a teenagers.
  • One of the many reasons I’m concerned about teens drinking is that it often leads to sex.
  • (For boys) Having a baby doesn’t make you a man. Being able to wait and acting responsibly does.
  • (For girls) You don’t have to have sex to keep a boyfriend. If sex is the price of a close relationship, find someone else.

By the way, research clearly shows that talking with your children about sex does not encourage them to become sexually active. And remember that your own behavior should match your words. The “do as I say, not as I do” approach is bound to lose with children and teenagers, who are careful and constant observers of the adults in their lives.

Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents. Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through an open process of family discussion and respectful communication. If your children get out of school at 3 p.m. and you don’t get home from work until 6 p.m., who is responsible for making certain that your children are not only safe during those hours, but also are engaged in useful activities? Where are they when they go out with friends? Are there adults around who are in charge? Supervising and monitoring your child’s whereabouts doesn’t make you a nag; it makes you a parent.

4.  Know your children’s friends and their families.

Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children and teenagers become friends with people whose families share your values. Some parents of teens even arrange to meet with the parents of their children’s friends to establish common rules and expectations. It is easier to enforce a curfew that all your child’s friends share rather than one that makes him or her different – even if your views don’t match those of other parents. Hold fast to your convictions. Welcome your children’s friends into your home and talk to them openly.

5.  Discourage early, frequent and steady dating.

Group activities among young people are fine and often fun, but allowing teens to begin steady, one-on-one dating before age 16 can lead to trouble. Let your child know about strong feelings about this throughout childhood – don’t wait until your young teen proposes a plan that differs from your preferences in this area; otherwise, he or she will think you just don’t like the particular person or invitation.

6.  Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is.

And don’t allow your son to develop an intense relationship with girls much younger than he is. Older guys can seem glamorous to a young girl; sometimes they even have money and a car to boot! But the risk of matters getting out of hand increases when the guy is much older than the girl is. Try setting a limit of no more than a two- (or at the most, three-) year age difference. The power differences between younger girls and older boys or men can lead girls into risky situations, including unwanted sex with no protection.

7.  Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood.

The chances that your children will delay sex, pregnancy and parenthood are significantly increased if their futures appear bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals. Tell them for example, that if they want to be a teacher, they will need to stay in school in order to earn various degrees and pass certain exams. It also means teaching them to use free time in a constructive way, such as setting aside certain times to complete homework assignments. Explain how becoming pregnant – or causing pregnancy – can derail the best of plans; for example, childcare expenses can make it almost impossible to afford college. Community service, in particular, not only teaches job skills, but can also put teens in touch with a wide variety of committed and caring adults.

8.  Let children know that you value education highly.

Encourage your children to take school seriously and set high expectations about their school performance. School failure is often the first sign of trouble that can end in teenage parenthood. Be very attentive to your children’s progress in school and intervene early if things aren’t going well. Keep track of your children’s grades and discuss them together. Meet with teachers and principals, guidance counselors and coaches. Limit the number of hours your teenager gives to part-time jobs (20 hours per week should be the maximum) so that there is enough time and energy left to focus on school. Know about homework assignments and support your child in getting them done. Volunteer at the school, if possible. Schools want more parental involvement and will often try to accommodate your work schedule, if asked.

9.  Know what your children are watching, reading and listening to.

The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, and the Internet) are chock full of material sending the wrong messages. Sex rarely has meaning, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and few people having sex ever seem to be married or even especially committed to anyone. Is this consistent with your expectations and values? If not, it is important to talk with your children about what the media portray and what you think about it. If certain programs or movies offend you say so, and explain why. Be “media literate” – think about what you and your family are watching and reading. Encourage your children to think critically: ask them what they think about the programs they watch and the music they listen to.

You can always turn the TV off, cancel subscriptions and place certain movies off limits. You will probably not be able to fully control what children see and hear, but you can certainly make your views known and control your own home environment.

10. These first nine tips for helping your children avoid teen pregnancy work best when they occur as part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from early age.

Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline and rich in communication, and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect. There is no single way to create such relationships, but the following habits of the heart can help:

  • Express love and affection clearly and often. Hug your children, and tell them how much they mean to you. Praise specific accomplishments, but remember that expressions of affection should be offered freely, not just for a particular achievement.
  • Listen carefully to what your children say and pay thoughtful attention to what they do.
  • Spend time with your children engaged in activities that suit their ages and interests, not just yours. Shared experiences build a “bank account” of affection and trust that forms the basis for future communication with them about specific topics, including sexual behavior.
  • Be supportive and be interested in what interests them. Attend their sports events; learn about their hobbies; be enthusiastic about their achievements, even the little ones; ask them questions that show you care and want to know what is going on in their lives.
  • Be courteous and respectful to your children and avoid hurtful teasing or ridicule. For example, don’t compare your teenager with other family members (i.e., why can’t you be like your older sister?). Show that you expect courtesy and respect in return.
  • Help them build self-esteem by mastering skills; remember, self-esteem is earned, not given, and one of the best ways to earn it is by doing something well.
  • Try to have meals together as a family as often as possible, and use the time for conversation, not confrontation.

Finally, it’s never too late to improve a relationship with your child or teenager. Don’t underestimate the great need that children feel at all ages for a close relationship with their parents and for their parents’ guidance, approval and support.

Taken from theNational Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

For many high school students, the senior prom is one of the highlights of their school career. They’re ready to celebrate 13 years of hard work during this rite of passage before the next phase of life.

But even though the prom’s focus is on the teens, this season can be tricky for parents, too. Even they experience the peer pressure. Plenty of parents know the realities of dealing with idea of being the “cool” parents.

“The whole notion of being the cool parent who has the after-prom party, takes the car keys and allows alcohol in order to keep their teen and the rest of the group ‘safe’ is a flawed thought process,” says Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw. “What we really need is for parents to be the parent.”

According to Tennessee law, there is no time when a child can legally drink before age 21. If an 18- or 19-year-old is caught holding a beer without even having a sip, he or she can still be arrested for underage possession. And unfortunately, the mugshot on Right to Know or Google won’t go away unless all charges are dropped, which could certainly impact future job opportunities. 

A 16- or 17-year-old caught with alcohol at a house party or behind the wheel automatically loses their driver’s license. Then, they must go through an expensive, long, arduous process to regain their driving privileges.

If you have a teen headed to the prom, there are some things you can do to help them have a great time.

  • Make sure they have a plan for the evening. Your teen should give you a complete rundown for the evening, including who they will be with and where they will go before and after the prom. Set expectations for checking in. Some parents want to hear from their teen whenever they move to a different location; others expect their teen to check in periodically throughout the evening.

  • Discuss curfew. Work together to determine a fair curfew. Consider your teen’s trustworthiness, maturity level and ability to be responsible.

  • Be specific about your safety concerns. Explain why prom night makes it more difficult to make safe and smart decisions. Don’t leave anything to their imagination; discuss the dangers surrounding drinking, drugs, driving under the influence and sex. Know who will be driving. If your teen rents a limo with friends, check out the limo company’s rules about alcohol.

  • Be sure you have information about the after-party. Don’t assume that your home rules also apply at the after-party location. Some parents believe it’s OK to serve alcohol to underage teens as long as the keys are checked at the door. But parents who choose to have a party at their house where minors are drinking alcohol need to consider the consequences. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days in the Hamilton County jail or probation for that amount of time. These consequences are minor compared to dealing with the loss of a life caused by teenage drinking.

  • Give your teen an unconditional offer for assistance. Make sure your teen knows that you want to be their first call for help. Some parents and teens have an agreed-upon code to use in case the teen feels uncomfortable with her date or does not want to go along with an unsafe plan. Be clear that you are willing to pick them up at any time and will save the lecture for later.

  • Most importantly, your teen needs to know you love him/her. One of the best ways to show love is to set limits. Help them understand that limits are there to make sure prom plans are safe.

“The stakes for today’s teens are higher in some respects,” Philyaw says. “Being crazy in 1984 and being crazy now are two very different scenarios.

“It is true: You only live once. We need to help our teens make wise decisions that will not haunt them as they launch into the next stage of life.”