Your Teen and Dating

When teens start dating, many parents aren’t sure what to expect. Dating doesn’t look the same as it did when you and I were in high school. Boys and girls interact differently. It may seem scary, but dating can be a great way to train your teen how to relate with with the opposite sex in a way that lines up with his values. In this article, I’ll help you set and enforce boundaries for dating, while keeping the lines of communication open.

Before They Start Dating

Who your child dates will determine who your child marries one day. In the meantime, parents have decisions to make about the “ifs” and “whens” of dating. Clarify your values and boundaries for dating, well before your teen gets involved in a relationship. As you determine your comfort level, don’t let your fears override common sense. You don’t need to assume the worst about your child. Your boundaries can be protective, but they also need to allow your teen to learn and experience how to engage with the opposite sex in a way that matches their values.

Before your teen goes on his first date, clearly communicate the boundaries and the consequences for breaking those rules. Let your teen knows what to expect. Then, keep communication lines open. Be sure your kids know they can always talk to you about ANYTHING, especially the sensitive stuff. No topic should be off the table.

While They Are Dating

Teens have a strong need to socialize. They will find a way to connect. Even though your teen may be spending more time with the person he’s dating, be sure to schedule time just for you and your teen to get together and talk. Don’t stop talking about dating once your teen gets a boyfriend or girlfriend. Continue to be open to all kinds of conversation topics, even the uncomfortable ones. When your teen does come to talk to you, don’t shame her. Instead, be a safe place to talk and solve problems together.

Greet your teen at the door when he or she comes home from a date. Get to know their girlfriend or boyfriend. Schedule family events that the significant other can comfortably attend. You don’t have to invite this person to your family reunion, but you should create opportunities to speak into your child’s life, and speak into the life of the person your teen is spending time with. You want to influence the influencer in your child’s life but you can’t do that if you don’t create opportunities to talk.

As your teen dates, your boundaries will likely be put to the test––curfews will be broken, schedules will be violated. They will try to talk and text at times when you’ve said “no.” It’s okay to stick to your established boundaries and consequences. Your teen knows when they’ve crossed a line. It’s up to you to follow through with the consequences you originally discussed. But no matter what, communicate your love for your teen, even when they violate your rules.

What If It’s Already Bad News? What Do I Do Now?

I hear from parents all the time whose teens are making mistakes in dating. It’s painful to watch your daughter date a horrible guy or find out your son has been dating behind your back.

My daughter dated a loser in high school. I understand how difficult it is to watch your child make poor choices. But even when they are doing things you don’t like, it’s vital to stay connected to your teen. Talk to your son or daughter about who they are dating, ask questions, and find out the reasons for their choices. I had to take the time to discover why my wonderful daughter had chosen to spend time with this boy who I didn’t approve of. He didn’t seem like much to me, but he had something I didn’t possess. Often our kids choose someone who fits a need or fills in what’s missing at home––time, attention, affection, approval. Find out what your teens really needs, or they will leave home to go get that need met.


Hey moms and dads … you’ve got a choice to make. You’ve got to determine where you land on allowing your son or daughter to date, and at what age, in today’s sexually charged culture. Perhaps the focus doesn’t need to be as much on controlling dating—determining the “ifs” and “whens” for your teen—as much as it needs to be about training them to engage with the opposite sex in such a way that is in line with their principles and values.

Dating isn’t what it used to be and the culture isn’t like it was when we grew up. So the standards that you’ve been holding onto for years may need to be reviewed to ensure that they are practical, protective, and allowing your teen to be pursuant of knowing more and more about relationships with the opposite sex. Your guidelines in this area will one day determine who your future son or daughter-in-law will be. So be wise.

When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to be Home

When they’re young, your kids can’t get enough of you. But when they’re older, it seems like they want to be anywhere but home. Even those kids who stay home may become distant––choosing to stay in their room for hours on end. So, what changed? In this article, I’ll address the reasons your teen might be avoiding home, and offer ways to invite them to stay and engage.

Reasons Your Kids Might Be Avoiding Your Home

As you child becomes a teenager, his world expands and changes. He is experiencing things outside the walls of your home that are attractive or distracting. To some degree, it’s normal for your teen to desire independence and freedom. It’s part of the maturity process. But it may be a hard transition for both of you. Eventually you’re going to have to relinquish some of your control. As your teen grows, you may need to make changes to make your home a place your teen wants to be.

If you’re still parenting your teen the same way you did when he was in elementary school, he will push back against your rules and push away from home. I’m not saying you can’t have rules, but you may need to make some adjustments. Ask yourself some tough questions to find out why your teen is absent. What are your expectations for your teen? Are they reasonable and attainable?  Even unspoken judgements by parents can make a teen desire to be somewhere else. Be aware that if you’ve created an atmosphere of constant negativity, where your teen feels there’s nothing he can do right, he will look for approval online, at friends’ homes, or anywhere other than at home. If there are constant fights and tension at home, he’ll want to leave. Finally, it’s expected and understandable for any teen experiencing emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse to look for an escape. As soon as they are old enough, they will get away.

Then, be willing to bring these questions to your teen and really listen to what she is saying. Why do you want to leave? What might I have done to push you away? Vulnerability is important here. Your kid knows when you are really listening and when you are just trying to change his behavior. You want to get the real answers, even when they’re difficult to hear. So don’t bristle at the answer, try to understand, be willing to accept the hard answers, and communicate your desire to change.

How Can We Invite Them to Stay?

Once you have heard the reasons your teen is staying away from home, you can make a plan. Remember, this isn’t a one-sided process. Invite your teen to help you. Have him speak to what he needs and work out what things need to be different. You may need to negotiate some things. You won’t win by requiring your teen to be at home. Instead, work together to make your home attractive. And remember that whether or not your teen says it out loud, she wants to be included in the family plans. So make it fun! Make your home a place your teen wants to be.

For some parents, it’s tempting to require teens to stay at home, but I don’t recommend it. Don’t use your authority to control your teen. Instead, work together to make your home attractive. Don’t close down the pathways to communication––your relationship is what ultimately connects you together, not simply your physical proximity. The teenaged years are the time to lean into your relationship, don’t let your kids push you away. Set aside time to hear your teen’s heart and listen in a way you’ve never done before.


Hey moms and dads …. Your teens want to be at home and they want to have a place where they can relax and feel a part of a family because that’s how God designed us to be––a part of a family. So what should you do? Well, the first step is creating a place where your teen wants to be. To do that, you have to ask why they don’t, and make the necessary changes. This doesn’t mean there aren’t chores to do, responsibilities to fulfill, and requirements for living at your home. But it does mean that you create an atmosphere of relationships, one where correction is little and connection is more, in a place that is attractive for their ends. It’s a challenge and will always be, to try to keep the temperature of your home steady in an ever-changing culture.

Going Deeper with Your Teen

There isn’t a parent out there who doesn’t want to have a deeper relationship with their teen. But many parents don’t know how. Every day, it feels the same. “How was school?” “Do you have any homework?” With an occasional, “How was your test?” sprinkled in. But how do you take the conversation with your teen to the next level? In this article, I’ll ask you to consider a few questions to help you figure out what’s preventing you from going deeper with your teen.

What Can Take the Place of Depth in Our Relationships?

Do you ask you teen, “how was your day?” … only to get the answer “fine”?  It’s easy to slip into the habit of relating to your teen on the basis of performance and behavior, and miss out on what’s happening in his heart. If you habitually ask your teen about grades, sports, or chores, you’ll only achieve a surface-level connection. You may even get stuck in a rut where shallow conversations are expected and normal. To change it up, and break out of this rut, and spend more time listening to your teen. Your relationship with your teen needs to grow and mature.

What Might Prevent Us from Going Deep with Our Teen?

Do you walk away from your teen when they’ve done wrong? In my experience with families and teens here at Heartlight, the number one thing that prevents moms and dads from drawing closer to their teens, is unforgiveness. When hurts at home go unresolved, it’s common for both teens and parents to want to push back from the relationship. But if you hold onto past hurts, you’ll never have a future. I guarantee your teen will disappoint you. So, get a fresh start by forgiving him. Do you best to take your focus off his flaws and find his heart! Remember, your grace shines brightest when you move towards a child who doesn’t deserve it.  

How Do We Go Deep in Our Relationship with Our Teen?           

Creating and maintaining an atmosphere of open communication, as your child gets older takes efforts and intentionality. Your teen is different at age 14, than he was at age 5. But if you keep parenting your teen in the same way, you will lose your connection with your teen when he gets older and needs something different. Be willing to makes changes, as your teen changes.

Start by taking an inventory of the time you spend with your teen. Do you spend time connecting about the deeper issues of life or are you simply attending events and sitting on the sidelines? Are you willing to have your schedule inconvenienced in order to make time to be together? Make time to share a meal, take a trip, and talk without smart phones. 

Here’s a tough question: Do you really love your teen? I don’t ask this flippantly––I mean it! Too often, we grow accustomed to being in the same house with our teens. We spend time together, but we don’t interact in a meaningful way. If you aren’t expressing authentic love to your teen, she will go outside of the home to get that need fulfilled.

Do you appreciate your teen as a unique person or are you only interested in spending time with your teen when he shares your interests or is behaving the way you want him to behave? It’s important for parents to take an interest in the things their teens enjoy. Believe it or not, you can appreciate a teen who is different from you, and even one who is pushing against the things you value the most. Instead of focusing on the bad behavior, talk with your teen, listen to his heart, and ask questions about what they care about. Then listen to them talk!


Hey moms and dads …. your teens want to go deeper with you, but they just don’t know how. You have the opportunity to teach them and show them how to engage at a deeper level. The first decision you have to make is whether you want to go deeper in conversation and relationship. Drawing closer will push you to go deeper in your own life, as you examine areas that may not have ever been addressed. But your teen will love you for it. As they get older, if they want to have deeper relationships, the best chance of that happening is with you. So strip away the old and bring in the new! Let them know that you want to have deeper conversations and desire to move away from the shallow end of the conversation pool. It’s a longing that they have, and a hope that will be fulfilled, when you take your teen to a new place of relationship.