That day has finally come. Your little one is all grown up and in the throes of his or her first romantic relationship. As a parent, you might feel happy they have made a special connection with someone, but a little anxious at the same time. Is your child safe? What if their date does not treat them well? What if they have sex without any protection?
Psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng says that boy-girl relationships (BGRs) are evident in many areas of life. Your child would most probably have been exposed to it through movies, television shows, or even just by observing couples in public. So, as early as possible, you should educate your child in a way that is appropriate to their age about BGRs, love, responsibility, as well as how to protect themselves.
When they start dating, support their decision and offer advice whenever needed. But how do you do ensure that they can protect themselves? Decide on the rules with junior by getting them to participate in creating these guidelines, so that they have ownership of these rules.
Dr Lim notes, “Be empathic and honest. Know that teens are at an age of curiosity and that they can be impulsive. Topic like sex might be taboo, but only by talking about them can ground rules be set.”
“The most important thing to consider before letting a kid start dating is his or her maturity and sense of responsibility.”
Dating helps youngsters get along with another person, communicate, negotiate, make decisions and even learn to stand up for themselves. However, teens with low self-esteem might not know how to protect themselves as they will do anything ― even if they aren’t comfortable ― just to feel accepted and loved.
Says Dr Lim, “The most important thing to consider before letting a kid start dating is his or her maturity and sense of responsibility. Usually around the age of 16, a child will be mature enough to go on a date.”
Even if junior is able to make many decisions on their own, he or she still needs you to set boundaries, so they know how to behave. Conduct guidelines not only help your kiddo get what they want while respecting someone else’s needs, but also help them feel safe. Here are seven dating practices parents could outline to their offspring:
1. Introduce their date to you
Parents just want to put a face to the name of the person their child is seeing. Explain to your young ’un that should have no qualms introducing their date to you as long as he or she doesn’t have a bad rep. Tell them that if they are happy, they will be happy too!
2. Start with group dates
It’s less awkward with other people around, especially if the relationship is new and both parties have just gotten to know each other. Nor should they go out on their own as a couple until both feel comfortable with each other. Tell daughters that they should only go on one-on-one dates when they know that they can trust the guy not to try anything funny with them.
3. Be upfront about plans
Your kid should volunteer information on where they will be, who they are with and what they plan to do, so that you’ll have peace of mind. Dr Lim points out that for safety reasons, “Teens should be accountable and inform parents of their whereabouts and plans.”
4. Keep to the curfew
Apply a curfew ― so that they can show you they can be trusted to follow the rules and be back by an agreed time. Even though Singapore is relatively safe at night, anything might happen. If he or she knows they’ll be delayed, they should inform you, so you don’t spend the entire night worrying about them.
“Have a good rapport with your kids by spending quality and fun time with them, as well as communicating openly, honestly and empathetically with them.”
5. No locking of room door when your date comes over
Closing and locking the door when it is just the two of you in the room can give others the wrong signal. Plus, the closed door will make it is easier for teenagers to get, well, carried away... Dr Lim states, “Whilst teenagers are entitled to their privacy, they must also be accountable.” And if your child wants switch on the air-conditioning in sweltering Singapore, Dr Lim suggests that junior leave his/her room door slightly ajar.
6. Don’t do things that will make you feel uncomfortable
Do not feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to. Sex or any other kind of intimate acts should only happen when both parties consent to it. Anything else will be considered sexual assault. Tell your kid they’ll need to take responsibility for their own actions.
7. Have zero tolerance for abuse
Whether the mistreatment is physical, emotional or verbal, abuse is a big no-no. Junior deserves to be with someone who cherishes and treats them with respect. If their date abuses them in any way and makes them feel inferior, that person does not deserve their love and care. Point out to them, “Why waste your time staying with someone who hurts you when there are plenty of other fish in the sea?”
Dr Lim sums up, “Have a good rapport with your kids by spending quality and fun time with them, as well as communicating openly, honestly and empathetically with them ― this will encourage them to be more open.
“Sometimes, it’s as simple as listening more and talking or nagging less!”
Dr Lim Boon Leng is a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.
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