My Teen is Starting to Date: 10 Rules I’m Implementing in My Home

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: My Teen is Starting to Date: 10 Rules I’m Implementing in My Home

Written By: Marybeth Bock

Nothing hits you harder or makes you realize quicker that your teen is growing up than when they come to you and say, “So, umm, Mom, … I wanna go on a date.”

We knew it was going to happen eventually, but when it actually happens it’s both exciting and (if we’re being honest), maybe a little terrifying. Suddenly, a panicky feeling hits you and a flood of thoughts rush through your mind…

Already? I thought I had more time to prepare for this!

There’s so much we need to talk about!

Do they know how to behave on an actual date?

I need to give them a crash course in dating.

What if things don’t go well?

Will they get their heart broken? 

My Teen is Starting to Date: 10 Rules I’m Implementing in My Home


I think most parents will agree that the dating world has changed a bit since we were our kids’ age. The most striking difference is that kids today are starting to date much younger than previous generations – twelve and a half for girls, and thirteen and a half for boys. (Sounds young, right!?)

Well, don’t panic just yet… it turns out that dating has also become a lot more casual so it might not be recognized as dating per se. The trend is for a bunch of kids to get together and socialize as part of a group. They might hit the mall, venture to the amusement park, hang out at someone’s house, or go to a school sports event.

Still, whether our kids are on a group date or one-on-one with a boy or girl, we want to prepare them (as much as we can) and put a few rules and guidelines in place – both for our kids’ sake and our own peace of mind. (Obviously, some of the rules we put in place may have to be tweaked as our kids mature.)

The most important thing to remember is that every parent may have different dating rules for their child – and that’s okay.

Just like every other stage of parenting, we might fall back on how we were raised and the dating rules our parents put in place. We might reach out to friends and relatives for advice, or dive into books and podcasts for expert insight. And, of course, we might follow our own “gut parenting instincts.” 

If your tween or teen is starting to date and you’re stumped on what rules to put in place, here are a few basic dating rules my husband and I are implementing as our kids start to date – rules that are a good starting point for any child starting to date.

1. Safety FIRST

You know the saying – “Safety first.” Well, when you’re a parent of a young tween or teen who’s starting to date, nothing matters more than their safety. Ask your child where they met this boy or girl. How long have they known them? Where are they going on their date? If they’re headed to their date’s house, will the parents be home? (If not, then it’s a no in my house.) Will there be a chaperone or designated parent driver? (Hint: if they’re too young to drive, you might want to offer to chaperone for your own peace of mind.) 

If your child is a tween or young teen, it’s not too overprotective at all for you to ask for the name and phone of the date’s parents so you can have a brief discussion with them. After all, this is your child and you have every right to ask as many questions beforehand to ensure your child will be safe. 

2. We Want to Meet Our Child’s Date

I trust my kids, but with apps like Tinder where you can arrange “dates” with strangers, (some call Tinder the hook-up app) I’m under no illusion that my kids might be tempted. Thus, there’s no way I’m letting my kids go on a date with anyone without coming face-to-face with them first (at least until they’re older). Plus, we consider it courteous and mannerly for our daughter’s date to pick her up at the door – and our son knows he has to do the same when he picks up a date.

We don’t require an hour-long sit-down (and we don’t interrogate them) – just a quick 5 or 10-minute chat so we can start building a relationship with them. We’re also big on inviting anyone my kids might be interested in dating (or actually dating) to our home to hang out and watch a movie or have dinner with us so we can get to know them. 

3. Share Your Destination

Tracking apps like Life 360 offer peace of mind so we know where our child is, but technology can and does fail and phones can get turned off so we put in an extra layer of precaution.

Not only do we require that our kids share their location with us on their phones, we also need to be updated if and when plans change and they end up going somewhere different than originally planned. Again, this is a safety issue. Knowing where they are and that they’re safe brings huge peace of mind – especially if their date is a new driver, if they’re heading somewhere they’ve never been, or if they encounter bad weather conditions. 

4. We Talk About Boundaries and Consent

Chances are your tween or teen will roll their eyes, sigh heavily, and blurt out, “Okaaay… I knooooww!” But conversations about personal space, boundaries, consent, and sex are so important to have with them no matter how they react when you broach the subject. 

If they’re dating someone for the first time, talk about their expectations and what they will and won’t allow on the date. Let them know that it’s okay to say “no,” to ANY unwelcome advancement(s). And for kids who have been dating for a while and may be considering getting into a physical relationship, they need to fully understand the rules of consent – not simply that “No Means No,” but that “YES” can be revoked at any time and consent must be freely given. Also, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be, make sure you talk about sex and birth control. Although more kids today are holding off on having sex,  you don’t want your teen getting their information from the Internet or their “bestie.”

For more information about consent: 

Teens and Sexual Consent: 8 Steadfast Rules They Need to Know

5. Respect Yourself and Your Date

Discussions about boundaries shouldn’t begin and end merely with the physical aspects of dating and being in a relationship. Our kids need to have a clear understanding of what respect looks like so they know if/when they’re being mistreated.

Whether their date ignores them by scrolling through their phone all night, makes unwelcome advances, or blatantly flirts with someone else while on the date, they need to be able to recognize signs of disrespect. Make sure your teen knows, too, that they can always use you as an excuse. In our home, we have a “Call me no matter what” policy.

6. Practice Healthy Communication & Conflict Resolution

Younger teens in particular need to work on their interpersonal skills when it comes to dating and relationships, in general. Help your teen develop healthy communication and conflict-resolution skills, such as active listening, empathy, and compromise. Encourage them to address conflicts openly and respectfully with their dating partners. Start conversations with your teen with phrases like, “How would you feel if…” or “What might you say if your date did or said…?”

7. Age-Appropriate Independence is Encouraged

While it’s important to set guidelines, also encourage your teen to develop independence and make their own decisions within the boundaries you’ve established. Once your teen has been dating for a while or has been in a couple of relationships, you can begin to step back.

Remember that your goal is to empower them with the skills and self-confidence to be in a healthy adult relationship when they’re off on their own. 

8. Open Communication is Key

We always encourage open and honest communication between us and our teens about their dating experiences. From the beginning, let your teens know that they can come to you with any questions or concerns. It’s also helpful to have at least one other trusted adult your teen can talk to, like an older sibling or cousin, a favorite aunt or uncle, or a counselor at school. The more resources they have, the better. 

9. School and Extracurricular Activities Have Priority Over Dates

Young love is a powerful force. Teens can get really wrapped up in romantic relationships and become quite forgetful about (or just blow off) homework and project deadlines, practices, games, and club commitments. (This is just a normal reaction to those feel-good hormones.)

However, despite how smitten they are with someone, my kids know that school and the extracurricular activities they’ve committed to come first. Of course, I want them to date, but it’s all about developing a practical balance. 

10. We Establish a Curfew

Regardless of where our kids are heading on a date, we establish a curfew and make sure they understand that we’ll be waiting up for them. Of course, they know we’re willing to make reasonable exceptions for a special occasion or circumstance provided we’re kept in the loop. 

Final Thoughts

Consistency is key in reinforcing expectations and teaching responsibility to teenagers when they begin dating. But remember that it’s important to tailor your rules to your teen’s maturity level, developmental stage, and specific circumstances. Be flexible and willing to adjust your rules as your teen grows and gains more experience in dating relationships. Above all, continue to provide your guidance, support, and unconditional love as they navigate the wonderful world of dating!

About Marybeth Bock:

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “My Teen is Starting to Date: 10 Rules I’m Implementing in My Home,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy!

Things I Want My Teen Son to Know Before He Starts Dating

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Starts Dating

A Cherished Heart: How I’m Teaching My Sons to Be Respectful, Caring Boyfriends

55 Summer Date Ideas for Teens that Won’t Break the Bank

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