Teens and Dating

1. Talk it Out With Your Teen

Think your teen’s itching to dive into the dating scene? Then it’s time to sit down and have a chat. Too often the teens who start dating without getting briefed on the birds and bees-as well as the ins and outs of relationships-are the ones who wind up getting in trouble. Even if your teen’s not having sex yet, there’s no doubt that the topic is looming ever-present in his or her head. And as a parent, it’s your responsibility to have the important (and yes, awkward) sex talk. Skip the basic details, which she’s already probably picked up at school, and focus instead on the more pressing issues, like protection against STDs and how sex should never be used to keep or get a girl or guy. Keep the tone casual without lecturing, and offer to always be there to talk out any troubles, no matter how touchy the subject.

2. Teens: They’re Not So Innocent

You may look at your daughter and still see that little girl who used to sit on your lap, but she might be testing some dangerous waters when it comes to dating. In fact, each year, 2.6 million teens become sexually active, and approximately one in 13 adolescent girls in the United States become pregnant annually. The CDC reports that at least 25 percent of teenage girls nationwide have a STD, and rates of those engaging in oral and anal sex are also on the rise. So next time you tell yourself that your teen is too young to be having sex, consider these scary facts. Then make sure he or she knows exactly what she needs to in order to avoid becoming a statistic.

3. A New Way to Play the Field

Gone are the days of note passing and formal phone calls: Today’s teens flirt in a much more high-tech way, including instant messaging, text, video and picture messaging. In fact, experts say that it’s a trend among teens to send their crush nude pictures of themselves via video or picture phone messaging. While your teen may not go to that extreme, chances are he or she is definitely dabbling in some online flirtation-and that may include posting a provocative picture or two. So to help them avoid embarrassment or scandal, let them know that anyone has the ability to check out their online activity, and that includes a college recruiter or a potential boss. They should only post or share pictures and info that are appropriate for all viewers; otherwise, they may ruin their chances of landing an internship or getting into a dream school.

4. Let Your Teen Know Your Dating Don’ts

It’s only natural to have the urge to lock your teenage daughter in her room until she’s 30. Realistically, though, you’re going to have to loosen the reins and let her have fun-and that includes going on a date or two. But if you’re uncomfortable with her going on a one-on-one date, then enforce a group-only policy. Tell her it’s O.K. to hit the movies with a mix of guys and girls, but not acceptable to engage in anything more intimate. Promise her that once you get to know the special guy a bit better, you may ease up and let her go out alone.

5. Lead By Example

Even if your teen is acting a bit rebellious these days, he’s still going to look at you to lead by example, especially when it comes to relationships. So be sure you’re setting a stellar standard with your spouse or partner. Never trash talk to your significant other in front of your children; instead, show your teen the core values of a lasting relationship through acts of respect, compromise and love.