By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tricks to tackling teen dating topic

Free Teen Driver Program

What: A program addressing driver attitude, knowledge and behavior of both the parent and the teen driver. For teens ages 14 to 16 and their parents.

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 9

Where: Gainesville State College, Oakwood

How much: Free; registration required

More info: or visit

Although most adolescent romantic relationships do not last, first romances are practice for more mature bonds in adulthood. In fact, warm and caring romantic relationships in the teen years tend to lead to satisfying, committed relationships in early adulthood.

The dark side of dating in the teen years is that it can put youth at risk. Frequent dating — or spending time with romantic partner(s) several times a week — in early adolescence is connected with risky adolescent behaviors such as poor school performance, drug use and delinquency.

Parents and youth educators can use their knowledge of both the promises and pitfalls of dating in the teen years to discuss dating with youth. Some suggestions on how to communicate with teens about dating include:

First and foremost, make sure you are building a caring, supportive relationship with your teen. That relationship serves as a model for the relationships she or he will have with friends and future romantic partners.

When your teen feels loved and supported, this will open the lines of communication and trust.

Provide educational opportunities for your teen to learn about the biological, social and emotional changes taking place during adolescence. Youth are interested in knowing about maturity (growth spurts and male/female biological differences) and enjoy applying this information to real life.

Take time to find out about your teen’s friends and schedule of daily events through conversation. This is a great way to learn about his or her peer network as well as what is important to your teen and his/her friends.

Ask your teen tentative, open-ended questions about potential romantic interests. Use active listening. Avoid forcing the issue, though. Don’t embarrass your teen by publicly expressing information he or she shares in confidence.

Talking about romantic relationships with preteens or early adolescents will not make them more likely to date. Instead inform your early adolescent or preteen of relationship myths they may have been exposed to by peers and media.

Ask your teen to think carefully about dating: whether he or she feels pressured to date; whether he/she knows of a teen couple who are having problems and why that may be the case; or what he/she thinks dating should be like. If possible, share what you know about the research in a caring and casual way.

Share with your teen the positives of dating later in adolescence. Let him/her know your views/values on dating with an optimistic attitude, using positive examples as needed. Avoid dwelling on the "dos" of dating.

Be willing to support your older teen’s efforts to date, unless there appears to be a threat of psychological or physical harm.

Understand that your teen’s identity as well as sexuality are still being formed and may be fragile. Avoid letting your values dictate your teen’s sexual identity.

Many youth face much confusion and difficulty during this time and need their parents support. Overall, it’s important to provide a safe and secure base for your teen to communicate with you openly about his or her relationships, guide your teen with open-ended questions to think about his/her own expectations and values in relationships and share your own wisdom about relationships with your teen.

Adapted from: Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension, University of Florida

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column appears in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.