Honestly, I wanted to title this post “Please Don’t Date My Son!” but I am trying to be upbeat and realistic. It is imminent that our teenagers will develop relationships and as parents we have to be open and honest with our sons so that they will feel comfortable communicating with us.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, it was our teenage years that many of us first became super-aware of hormones and those mushy feelings so why should it be any differently for our children?
The difference – the society we live in is totally different. They are introduced to so much way earlier and have access to a world way beyond our four walls or even our tiny community with the rise of social media usage and the Internet, in general.
I will admit, I am not the best at accepting my eighth grader is at the age where his hormones are raging. I want to believe that there are still thoughts of our favorite Saturday morning cartoons running through his mind – but I have to be realistic and face the fact that his body is growing and changing. His mind is becoming hyper-aware of S-E-X and as his parents, his father, stepparents and I cannot ignore or wish them away.
I would like to think that I am fairly approachable, but let’s be honest there are just some topics a teenage boy is mortified at having with his mother and, sometimes, even his father. Finding a trusted adult he can speak to is key – one who will keep their conversations confidential but, also, know that there are some things that have to be shared with his parents.
Social Media 101: There is so much that goes on social media – whether you allow your child on it or not, have the conversations about being safe and check, check, check. Some may not agree with it, but I do regular surprise checks on my teenager’s electronic devices. I check his Internet history and Applications history. We discuss anything found that is not appropriate and there are consequences for inappropriate behavior. I regularly share news stories of “Social Media Gone Bad” so he can see that what’s put out there, stays out there and can impact you for years to come – especially sharing, commenting on or posting inappropriate messages.
Texting / Sexting: Teenagers today pretty much grew up on electronical devices. Cell phones are a way of life and a very convenient one. Sexting is a topic that has come up frequently in recent years. It’s when one sends inappropriate photos of themselves to others via text message. I stress to my teen that it is inappropriate and disrespectful to request someone to send him those type of text messages and vice versa. Once those photos leave his presence, he has no control over who will receive them or where they will end up.
“Kid channels” like Nick Jr, Nickelodeon, and The Disney Channel are typically the norm in our household. I have noticed that there’s a trend in many of these shows depicting romantic relationships among the characters – at younger and younger ages. This is another way I have been able to connect with my teenager – I am able to slip in questions that center around the television show and its topics to start really great conversations. It, also, has opened my eyes to just how “open” our society is and the need for parents to be more proactive versus reactive teen dating issues.
Whether we “allow” it or not – our teenage sons will have romantic relationships. I honestly believe by forbidding these relationships we are pushing our children away and making it more difficult for them to come to us to talk and get advice.
I don’t encourage my son to date or have a girlfriend, but I have set up a few guidelines and routinely touch on the following “dating rules”:
- Always respect yourself and others – with your spoken and written words and actions. Make sure others do the same for you. (Verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse often occurs in teenage relationships. Know the signs and share them with your children!)
- My door is always open. I promise not to flip out, shut him down, or be condescending when he comes to me with problems or concerns on his own.
- The older you wait to have a serious, one-on-one relationship the better. It’s okay to have friends that are girls, but the emotional toll a relationship can take is one best saved for later in life. Focusing on school work, extracurricular activities and forming lasting platonic friendships will serve your teen years much better. I often refer to the friends of opposite sexes my husband and I have that we’ve known since middle and high school (some even earlier than that) and the bonds our families share.
- Protect your body. Sex and sexual behavior is best saved for later in life with your future spouse. That’s my belief and one I share with all my children. With my teenager, I am explicit about the different types of sexual behaviors and why they are not appropriate at his age, including discussions on what can happen if you have unprotected sex (like finding pimples on the penis or a rash on your genitals). As he transitions to high school, our conversations will evolve.
What are you dating rules for your teenage sons? In light of recent news stories, have you had additional conversations about respecting their bodies and respecting others physically and sexually? Chime in below and make sure you join us next Wednesday for our weekly Twitter chat using the hashtag #VoicesForOurSons
Each month, myself and three fellow mothers will be collectively sharing our voices and our social media reach. We are all raising young boys and believe in the concept that it takes a village to raise a child.
We will be sharing their successes, their opportunities for growth, their dreams, and their aspirations. While our experiences may differ, collectively we speak for our sons.
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