A Letter to Parents: What You Need to Understand About Me Dating

By Julia Pavlosek:

I have a friend who still isn’t allowed to see a movie alone with her boyfriend. They’ve been together over three years–longer than the age of my ancient iPhone 6. I have another friend who has parental permission to bring a girl over when he’s home alone… and to have his door locked when he isn’t. Both are 17. Both are good students and good people. These are two extreme examples of how parents influence to teen dating.

On average, curfew for juniors and seniors is midnight. Most teenagers can have their significant others in their room–with the door open of course. (You only get a cracked door if you’re lucky. And either way you know that your mom is gonna barge in without knocking.)

But how do teenagers feel about these regulations on their dating life? Should parents have more or less control over the decisions we make on our path to love? What do we want parents to understand? I interviewed 15 people, most of whom were upperclassman, to find out.

The biggest issue brought up was trust. For example, Micayla Stam (11) wants to remind parents that teens know consequences. “We’re in high school. We don’t necessarily want to ruin our lives, so we’re going to play it smart and safe. We aren’t as idiotic as you think we are.”

Letting go and supporting your teenager goes hand in hand with trust. This is crucial for having a healthy relationship with your teenager in general, but especially when it comes to their dating life.

Morgan Ellis (11) noted that the tone of parents can have a huge impact. “As a parent, try to be encouraging, not controlling. If you are constantly telling your kid what they can’t do, they will get defensive and resentful. Not to mention that they will most likely end up doing something that you like even less.”

Amar Rupnawar’s (11) advice to parents is to remember what it was like when you were our age. “Teens are growing up and wanting to experience more things. Hopefully the parents can relate to their teens because they were in similar situations. You can’t necessarily take it away from them.”

Overall, most of my interviewees were content with the rules their parents had established. Here are some suggestions for those other parents. (Not you, of course.)

“My parents are fine, but I feel like other parents may need to take a step back and look at how they used to be when they started dating,” said Brooke Murray (11).

“Maybe your kid wants to do something that you haven’t done, or something you don’t like. Ask yourself if it’s something that’s harmful to your kid. If the answer is no, maybe try to let go of your bias,” suggested Morgan Ellis (11).

Ethan Litson (12) was more blunt. “Let them do them. That’s it. It’s not your relationship, it’s mine.”

Some parents are controlling to protect their teenagers. However, there may be a better way to handle this than banning your kid from seeing someone.

Henry Stowell (11) urges communication, not coercion. “Parents cannot make the decision on if you should date someone or not… if a parent actively hates someone, they should talk to their kid and explain why and try to come to an understanding,” he said.

Sometimes it is important to make compromises with your teenager. Yes, you need to try to keep them safe, but not at the expense of ruining a relationship with them.

“Some parents are really strict about dating and are like, ‘you can’t date until you’re 16.’ I feel like that just means they’re not going to tell you when they begin dating,” said Danielle Stone (9).

Eventually, things are going to go wrong. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent or that you have a bad kid (usually). After all, sometimes you have to do something wrong to learn how to do it right. But (how much) should a parent punish their teenager?

Morgan Ellis (11) suggests that,“The goal is that you help your kid transition into adulthood, not that you catch them when they fall. That also doesn’t mean beat them up about their screw ups. Kids will screw up. In a relationship or otherwise. Generally, they will be harder on themselves than you can be.”

We have a few more suggestions for parents to help them understand our dating lives.

“Even though it seems like we hang out all the time, in our minds we never hang out and it sucks,” said Kaylee Martin (11).

“Parents need to understand that kids need to be able to be alone sometimes. I think kids need to be supervised too though,” said Maya Reddy (10), settling between extremes.

“Things aren’t always as they seem. You think teenagers are immature and irresponsible, but depending on the relationship type, you can have a really good, healthy relationship,” said Garrett Pierce (11).

As for the things that parents are doing well, we notice and we appreciate it. Trust me.

“I don’t think they (my parents) are overly protective. I think they need to be, and it’s a good thing that they are most of the time,” said Carson Holman (11).

Brooke Murray (11) appreciates that her parents knew that her feelings would be intense. “My parents understood that when I started dating Jed that I was going to be excited and not hang out with my family and only hang out with Jed for like 17 years straight. It was nice.”

“My parents have changed their rules. I used to have to be home at like 7:30 from Alondra’s, but now it’s like 9,” said Emilio Ziolkowski (11).

“They trust me. They’re not going to freak out about things because I’m not going to do anything bad,” said Nicole Mickanlanski (12).

Trust and communication are the two best things for handling a teen’s dating life. And if we’re being realistic here, those two tools are crucial for any healthy relationship. This is easier said than done, but if you have trust and communication, everything will be okay.