Here are my notes from Episode 009: Helping My Kids Date Great – Part 1
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I vividly remember my first date. I was 16. I drove my dad’s brown Buick Lesabre, and I took Katy Meyers, a friend of mine from church to eat at Red Lobster, for the seafood lover in me of course, and then we went to see the new James Bond 007 movie, A View To A Kill.
It’s interesting how much I remember about that first date. And, I remember not knowing what to do! I remember I was super nervous throughout the entire thing – I didn’t eat much, I couldn’t focus on the movie…I remember thinking, “Do I share a drink with her at the movie?” “Do I try and hold her hand?”
I clearly remember walking her to her door and wondering, “Do I hug her goodbye?” “Do I kiss her good night?” “Do I even know how to kiss her?” “And, what if I do it wrong?”
It was a pretty awkward night. But, I can also say…it WASN’T a night that ended in regret. Though I didn’t know exactly what to do, or expect, or if Katy would ever want a second date, I can say that nothing happened on that date that I wish I could take back!
Sadly, this isn’t the case for countless kids I meet everywhere. Tweens, teens, college students, millennials, and, many adults, have shared dating-disaster stories with me.
And, of all the students who have told me heart-break stories about their dating lives, not one, seriously, NOT ONE has ever told me, “Before I started dating, I had a plan.”
Every boy and girl needs a plan. I’m going to help you help your son or daughter get there starting right now.
A youth pastor with more than 25-years of experience recently told me, “In all of my years of ministry, I have never seen such a confused group of students as it relates to dating.” He went on to tell me that his teens are coming to him all of the time asking questions about dating, relationships, and more.
I couldn’t agree more. This generation, Gen Zs, are bombarded with lies about dating, what’s proper, what’s safe, and what’s out-of-bounds, and they want guidance.
A new Harvard study about the dating habits of young adults reveals that most Millennials are looking for guidance on how to form loving relationships. The survey, which included over 2,000 young adults, found that about 70% wish they had could received more information from their parents about finding and keeping love.
70% of young adults surveyed said mom and dad missed it when it comes to good input in their dating lives!
If you have a millennial son/daughter, this is important information to realize about them.
The widespread availability of birth control, including long-acting contraceptives and the morning-after pill, has heightened interest in casual sex-without-strings. Media has become more sexually aggressive, and pornography more widely available. Relationships have been complicated by technology, including the pressures of social media and the illusion of constant contact.
Add to this mix reality-tv, such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, which are both highly popular with teens. From week to week, these shows fuel the fire for hooking-up influenced relationships among multiple partners.
All of this creates a relationship landscape that is confusing—with competing interests and expectations, and the lack of a recognizable pattern for relationships. The lack of social norms about how to find a partner add to the sense of romantic bewilderment felt by so many of our kids.
It’s no wonder that so many of our kids struggle with dating. I can’t even begin to guess how many kids over the 25+ years I’ve worked with students have told me horror stories about their dating lives – – heart-wrenching-and-heart-breaking stories of poor choices, one sexual step too far, the mix of hooking up and alcohol, prom-night regrets, bad break-ups, losing their virginity, losing their minds and so much more while dating!
Here’s the summary statement of this episode of Family Strong:
Most Gen Zs simply are clueless when it comes to dating great, and about how to get to a loving, stable relationship suited for marriage.
There are many, many contributing factors as to why our kids are in the shape they are in when it comes to dating.
Reality is, few if any Gen Zs have ever been led in the right direction with all of this. Most I meet simply tell me: “One day I’ve never been on date. And, the next, here we go…I’m on a date with no guidance, no thought about, and zero parameters clearly outlined for me to follow!”
There is also this view that the “hookup culture” is the norm.
A recent Pew study found that just 19% of teens and young adults say most people can be trusted.
In this Harvard study, young adults described wanting their parents’ help with:
– “How to avoid getting hurt in a relationship.”
– “How to have a more mature relationship.”
– “How to deal with breakups.”
– And, “how to begin a relationship.”
My daughters are right at that age where dating is becoming of interest to them. I want to be the #1 source of information for them. I want them to want to come to me.
And, and this is important: I want them to TRUST that what I tell them is right!
So, what’s a parent to do?
Most parents I talk with have NO STRATEGY IN PLACE to help guide and guard their son/daughter through the dating years. Do you?
It is critical that you do. Parent, part of your role is to help your son, your daughter, craft a strategy for the dating years. My intention isn’t to scare you or guilt you. But I can tell you that after countless conversations with millennials, Gen Xers and Gen Zs through the past 25+ years, I am convinced that “dating” coupled with all the potential drama it can present, is one of THE leading sources of struggle and heartbreak for our kids!
Why? Because, and this is really important – Two words: NO PLAN!
Most tweens, teens, and college students with whom I talk tell me that mom and dad never talked with them about a dating strategy. This means that most of them with no experience, no guidance and no plan in place must make critical decisions solely on their own, often on the fly, as they try and answer questions like:
Is this person datable or not?
Is it okay to get into a car with someone mom and dad don’t even know?
What will I do if, at the party, there is alcohol?
What if he wants me to come over and his parents aren’t home?
How do I respond when she sends me a sext?
What do I do if he threatens or hits me?
What is my plan of action if he starts smoking, doing drugs, or juules?
Is it really a big deal if she wants to hook-up?
Do I kiss her on the first date or the tenth date?
What if he isn’t a Christian? Does that even matter?
How am I supposed to feel about myself if no one asks me out on a date?
These are just a few of the big questions our kids will potentially have about dating.
I guarantee you – your son/daughter wants the answers to these questions and more, whether they realize it or not.
Dating can be a wonderful time for your child to develop healthy, God-centered relationships with the opposite sex. Dating can also help them develop independence and demonstrate trustworthiness. When you believe the time is right for them to begin dating, your goal is to help them develop dating habits that make dating fun and safe.
So, in this episode of Family Strong, I want to hit on some of the most pressing issues we are seeing, more importantly, we are hearing as we talk with students everywhere about their dating lives.
If your son or daughter isn’t dating yet, this will be a great tutorial for you as you begin to craft a dating strategy for when the time comes.
If they are dating, you need to keep listening too. Because if you haven’t developed a strategy, time is of the essence.
I want to remind you that you can grab my notes for this episode at jeffreydean.com/9. This one is packed with so much information, you may want to print the notes and let these points guide you as you move forward.
Okay, so let’s get started. This first one really helps us set the right pace, because as our kid’s date, it’s only natural that there will be more and more questions for which they will need to already have formulated their answers. This one is especially important for those who haven’t started dating yet, but are getting there:
1. Answer the “Why?” and the “What?” Questions.
We teach our kids to answer the “Why?” and “What?” questions in many areas of their lives. For instance:
Why is it important to always tell the truth?
What homework do you need to do tonight?
Why do you need $20?
What rating does that movie have?
What were you thinking when you made your brother eat a worm?
In many ways, we parent by asking questions, don’t we? Amy and I frequently ask the girls questions about school, attire, music, friends, the bible, and more. Encouraging our kids to ask similar questions when it comes to dating is important too. For instance:
Why date her?
Why do you want to date him?
What do you hope to gain by dating?
What kind of person would you never date?
Work with your child to begin asking the right questions about dating. Then, equally work to answer these questions and to clearly articulate a reason for dating. I know I’m gonna sound old-school here…but dating shouldn’t be merely something you do just to fill a void in your Friday night calendar. And, if that is the intention, more times than not trouble is just around the corner. Getting them into the rhythm of answering questions like these can teach your son/daughter how to date with intentionality while also establishing healthy and realistic boundaries that safeguard them while out on a date.
2. Going Solo Is Okay.
I repeat: YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS TOO!
I hear from countless Gen Zs who tell me about the pressure their parents, especially moms place on them to date!
I know a girl who seems like the perfect package: Beautiful. Smart. Athletic. Godly. And single. One day she’ll make for the perfect spouse. But for now, she’s totally cool with going solo. She told me: “Why rush it? My life is great right now. I’m enjoying high school, sports, and just spending time with my friends. Dating usually just confuses everything, and I am in no hurry for that.”
Your son/daughter needs to know that going solo is cool. They don’t have to date just because they are a teenager and feel like that’s what they are supposed to do. In fact, choosing not to focus on dating frees you up to focus on grades, sports, family, and much more!
I’m often asked this big question: “How old should my child be before they begin dating?”
My answer: “It’s not about their age. It’s about their maturity!”
Let’s establish this key principle: not every Gen Z has to date, nor is every Gen Z ready to date. It is okay to encourage your teen to hold off from dating. And, teens need to know that going solo isn’t for losers.
I remember the first time I met Brad. He so impressed me that I included his story in my book Watch This: A Getting-There Guide to Manhood for Teen Guys. Brad was the kind of guy that every guy wanted to be and every girl wanted to date. Good looks, good grades, cool car—he had it all. But Brad told me that he wasn’t concerned with dating at the moment. He said, “I can’t wait to meet the girl I’ll spend the rest of my life with. But until then, I’d rather skip all the hassle and temptation of dating. I’m having a blast playing ball, hanging with friends, and just being single.”
How refreshing is that!
Parent: Give your son/daughter permission NOT to date.
Sometimes teens believe that they have to date because everyone else does. And, HEAR THIS PARENTS: Sometimes, teens believe that they have to date because a parent, especially A MOM, wants them to date…and….PUSHES them to date!
Your kids need to hear from you that it’s okay not to date. In fact, choosing not to date can free our kids from all the potential dating drama and it can provide a greater sense of focus for developing a strong personality, life skills, and for teens of faith, a God-centered worldview. Of course, I’m not saying these things CAN’T happen if your teen IS dating. But, I find it to be true – when a kid is in a dating relationship, not always…but it is often the case that everything becomes secondary to the relationship.
Listen to this email I received from a teen girl named Jenna. She wrote me recently to say:
I can’t thank you enough for your book This Is Me. I have read the chapter on dating twice. Every word you said reminded me that that I don’t have to settle when it comes to who I date. My parents have never really been there for me. So, I’ve had to navigate all of this on my own. Many guys are only interested in one thing when they ask you out. I’ve found that out the hard way. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t have to be that girl any more. I love what you said, ‘Waiting patiently for the right guy makes you smart – and makes God proud.’ That’s the person I’m trying to be now – smart! – Jenna
Jenna’s email is just one of many I receive from Gen Zs who no longer want to settle when it comes to dating. She now realizes that she doesn’t have to be the girl so many messages in our world work to convince teens to be.
3. Make sure all conversations are on.
The madness of relativism is permeating culture today and sending a tragic message to our kids that there is no such thing as absolutes – right and wrong – and it has spread across the dating world. The line between what’s acceptable and what’s not has become increasingly blurred.
Turn on the TV or browse through any teen magazine; it won’t take long to see that everyone has an opinion to give your teen about dating. Reality TV shows depict dating as a game that can be won by the last contestant standing. Magazine ads insist that teen girls should use their bodies at any cost to attract the attention of guys. Commercials often depict women as products on display to entice the male eye. Gen Zs are bombarded with titillating messages that showcase male and female interaction as lustful and uncontrollable. A generation, AT OFTEN A VERY YOUNG AGE, is being raised with the notion that “anything goes” when it comes to the opposite sex. Accordingly, a lot of kids today are struggling in their dating lives. Additionally, many parents are too, but for a different reason.
So, parents listening – – Make sure all conversations are “on.”
“My mom is okay with me dating. I have only been in one serious relationship this year. But there are a lot of questions and things I’m confused about. She’s never really talked to me about guys or any of that stuff. I am thankful she isn’t too strict on me. But, I also know that I don’t have it all figured out myself. What do you think I should do? Should I approach my mom and invite her into my personal life? Or should I just keep things the way they are and not risk having her involvement?” – Jessica, 16 year-old
It’s obvious Jessica longs for her mom’s input. And, I love her honesty.
On the Family Strong Facebook Live Show last week, I talked about the 5 Foundational Truths to helping build a strong family. Foundational Truth #2:
My child wants (and needs) me involved in their life.
“I don’t push myself on my son. But I do clearly let him know that I am here if and when he wants to talk. And, talk is exactly what he has started doing. Early on in his dating years, he didn’t tell me a lot. But, as he’s gotten older, I think he’s come to understand that I am safe. We now talk openly about it all, and our relationship is stronger because of it.” Isn’t this what we all desire as parents—to have a close connection with our teens? – Mom of a teen boy
Communicate clearly with your son, communicate clearly with your daughter and let him, let her know that you’ll talk about any subject.
Know these 2 truths about communication:
1. They need your help!
2. They may never request it!
They need your help to understand what should and should not happen while on a date. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to them about dating. Ask questions. Encourage them to tell you what’s happening.
A great starting point for communication – – clearly communicate your expectations. Have you done this? You need to no matter their dating experience, such as:
I will always want to know:
– Where you are.
– Who you are with.
– And, what time you will be home.
Better yet – tell them what time to be home!
Rules don’t make you a legalistic parent. They make you a good parent!
Now, if your son/daughter is not new to the dating scene, establishing dating guidelines may not sit well at first. Take the time to tell them why you want to be more involved in their dating life. Explain that you desire more than ever before to help them avoid any heartache they could experience from making a wrong choice while on a date.
Now, once they leave the house, there is no guarantee that they will abide by your wishes. But don’t give up. Work to communicate with them your desire to be in the know when it comes to their dating experiences.
Okay, I spent a lot of time on communication because communication is the critical component of a healthy relationship with your kids. So, DON’T STOP WORKING at communication.
On the Family Strong Podcast, I believe that God is the driving force for everything I say. If you are not a person of faith, these truths are still greatly beneficial for you.
This next one is specific to my faith and I believe, a critical one for every child who dates. Remind your son or daughter…
4. Dating begins with God.
This one is critical to your child becoming everything God desires and experiencing all of the blessings He has in store for them. God wants to be involved in every aspect of their life. Your encouragement to them to walk closely with the Lord CAN NOT be overstated, particularly when it comes to dating. To have a DATING LIFE pleasing to God, your child must desire a LIFE pleasing to God. This can happen as they commit to consistently communicating with God and seeking His will.
If they pursue time with Him, I am confident God will guide and direct them throughout their dating life.
“How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2
Scripture reminds us that our joy comes from time with God, specifically time spent reading the Bible.
This is critical: So many Gen Zs have been convinced happiness comes from dating.
I was so saddened to hear my oldest daughter Bailey tell me that one of he friends has recently sexted nude pics to her boyfriend. I know this girl. She is such a sweet girl. She is very involved at school. She is super involved in her youth group at church. I know her parents. We love their family.
Her story is reminder to me of just how quickly things can spiral south fast in a relationship that isn’t founded first, on, honoring God.
If my kids and your kids aren’t FIRST committed to honoring God with their lives, it will only be a matter of time before the start honoring a boyfriend or girlfriend with their bodies.
As Psalm 1:1-2 assures us, when your child commits time to God and to getting into His Word, they will be continually reminded that their value and significance ISN’T found in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex; rather, it is found in a committed relationship with Jesus Christ. As they develop a deeper relationship with Christ, their sense of security will reflect God’s plan and purpose for life rather than depending on what a boyfriend or girlfriend wants, expects, or demands from the relationship.
“I am experiencing first-hand the benefit of having applied the time in the Word principle I learned from you at camp while I was in high school. I want you to know this discipline has paid off for me. The more I have been in the Word, the more confidence I have developed in my walk with God. Now that I am in college, I know my degree, my social status, or my future girlfriend do not define me. God does. I’m willing to patiently wait for the right girl who also desires to love God more than anything. Thank you for pushing us to get our priorities right with God. It has made all the difference in my life!” – Jacob, a camp counselor
Date or no date, placing God above all else will be a decision worth making for your son/daughter that will provide for ultimate identity, purpose, and meaning that can only be found in God.
Of all the issues that Gen Zs talk with me about, dating is near the top of the list. Our kids are often just thrown onto the dating scene with little to no guidance. Sexual pressures, the internet, hooking up, same-sex relationships, the question: “how far is too far..” – – there are so many questions this generation has about dating.
I want to talk a about an issue that I haven’t always addressed when talking or when writing in my books about dating. Actually, in my new book for parents to hit stores this September, Raising Successful Teens, this is the first book of 7 that I’ve written in which I DO talk about this issue.
Sadly, it’s now something we have to include into this conversation our kids need us to have with them about their dating lives.
Tell your son/daughter:
5. No One Ever Has The right To Abuse You
While I was in Kansas last summer speaking at a teen conference, many teens spoke with me about their dating dilemmas. My daughters were there too. And, one girl spoke with Brynnan and told her about a relationship that had gone terribly wrong. In this relationship, she was forced to have sex with someone.
Each year, approximately 1.5 million high school students experience dating abuse.
10% of high school students who dated someone in the past twelve months reported being slapped or purposefully hit and physically hurt by a romantic partner.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23% of females and 14% of males first experienced dating abuse between the ages of 11 and 17 years.
I have talked with many students who have shared with me their very personal stories involving dating violence. Sadly, most never tell anyone. Many who experience emotional, psychological or sexual abuse, often keep the secret to themselves.
According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 55% of parents say they have spoken with their child about teen dating violence.
I’m often asked: Why has dating violence increased?
It doesn’t take much effort to formulate this conclusion: Video games and porn.
I am of the belief that due to extreme video games and the accessibility of graphic pornography often involving sadism and masochism, dating violence is on the rise.
So, how’s a parent to know for sure if your kid is being abused?
Here are a few signs that should alert you to the possibility that your teen is in an abusive relationship:
– Declining grades;
– Withdrawing from relationships and interests of importance;
– Being secretive or sneaky;
– A lack of self-care.
Dating violence is a very real issue that isn’t going away. Talk to your child TODAY, especially if they are in a dating relationship, and let them know that no one ever has the right to abuse them in any way – ever!
Sometimes, and this is important, kids need help recognizing the signs that they are in an abusive relationship. Here are some signs to point out to your son/daughter.
Have them answer these questions about their dating relationship:
Does your boyfriend or girlfriend:
– Humiliate you in any way, in private or public?
– Yell at you?
– Criticize you and put you down?
– Treat you so badly you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
– Ignore you, or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
– Blame you for their own abusive behavior?
– Expect you to make sexual choices you don’t want to?
Hopefully this is something that your child WILL NEVER experience.
But, if they do, they need to be able to recognize, speak-up, and get out of an abusive relationship.
This is one of those topics we don’t think about a lot, if ever, when it comes to dating. But, we need to! We have to!
Also, consistently communicate to your son/daughter that you want to be the first person they come to if there is ever any abuse of any kind in their relationship. The key word here is: Consistently. This isn’t a one and done conversation you need to have. Consistently tell them this. Things change. Relationships change. And, the longer your child is in a relationship, the easier it can be to make excuses for someone. AND, the harder it can be to recognize abuse in all it’s forms. So, keep talking to them about this!
One way to approach this with your child – let them know I talked about this on the Family Strong Podcast. Ask them some of the potential- abusive relationship questions I walked your through earlier.
I suggest printing the episode notes for this episode at jeffreydean.com/9 so that you have these points and these questions in front of you.
All right, that is some heavy AND important content. Parent – we have to be pro-active with talking about this issue of abuse.
Lastly, if your kids haven’t started dating, here’s a great teachable moment for them and a good-times night out with your spouse.
I’ll direct this one to dads, since I’m a dad. But, of course, moms can take the lead here too.
So, dad’s – – take your wife out on a date while bringing along your son or daughter to just take it all again.
This is an excellent teachable moment to help your child better understand what dating should be about. Seeing you opening the door, pulling out a chair, being respectful, complimenting, and making sure to avoid taking your date to any unsafe environment can all be great ways for your son to view how he should treat girls on his dates. This can be a powerful teachable moment for your daughter as well as she sees firsthand how she should expect to be treated by a guy on her future dates.
One father recently told me about his experience. He said:
“As a learning experience, I recently took my wife on a date and double-dated with my fourteen-year-old son, Josh, and my eleven-year-old daughter. The first part of the date was a total disaster. Josh had no intentions of treating Sarah, his sister, with respect. Realizing my plan was not working, I switched dates with Josh and had him continue the date night with his mom as his date. The rest of the evening was a powerful learning experience for Josh and us all. He treated his mom with the utmost respect—pulling out her chair at the restaurant for her, opening the door for her to get into the car, and more. And get this: Josh even asked us if he could take his mom on another date again soon.”
What an excellent way for you to model to your teen what it means to respect, and be respected by, a date
I want to also remind you that if you haven’t received my gift for you: The Family Strong Blueprint, you can get your copy today by texting the word “family” to the number 345345.
The Family Strong Blueprint is your personal guide to helping you build a strong family. It’s a digital toolbox packed with tips and tools to help up you construct a plan to become an even stronger family. And, the best part of all – it’s free!
Again, simply text the word “family” to the number 345345 and get The Family Strong Blueprint.
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.