A peek inside this post: Don’t you wish there was a parents’ guide to teenage dating? Well, although it will look different for every family, we thought it would be nice to share our Christian Family Dating Policy for Teens, in the hope that you will gain some inspiration and valuable tools during this stage of parenting. We go over the Christian guidelines for teenage dating that we have implemented, and some thoughts to ponder as you craft your own family plan!
Let’s talk about teens dating.
Last week we had a pretty big blow up in our house. One of our kids (who will remain nameless, for his sake) was not happy with our family dating policy and wanted to defy what we have set up. He got himself into a whole heap of trouble because he thought his way was better than the plan we had as a family. He wanted us to bend to his will and that was the only thing that was going to make him happy.
I can probably use that scenario to describe many seasons/situations in the Sniff house over all the years of being a family. It could have been a toddler throwing a fit about toys or a teenager angry about the dating policy. This time it was the dating scenario.
The Lord has given us these amazing kids and we have asked for his wisdom in parenting them. Through lots of prayer and wisdom from those who have gone before us in the trenches of the battlefield of life with teens, we created a plan for Team Sniff.
You have to know that it feels a little overwhelming to put our policy out there for the world to see. This isn’t a “no-fail” plan to succeed with your child, and how they can be a perfect individual so that you can feel like a professional parent.
It is what works for us. We share our story and our plan in hopes that it will help you, friends, make your own plan after much prayer and consideration.
I tend to be a bit of a verbal processor, so in addition to writing this post, I wanted to sit down for coffee with all of our friends here and explain. Don’t miss my video a little later in this post!
The Importance of Setting Christian Guidelines for Teenage Dating
Somewhere along the way, there’s an unproven notion that teenagers are capable and able to handle complex, multi-layered, emotionally heightened, relationships. Or that they will “figure it out as they go.”
We are firm believers that we need support and accountability in every season of our lives.
During the teen years we, as parents, are their accountability. We simply cannot abdicate this role and responsibility. We must parent well in this area, and the prayer is that our kids will grow to desire and ask for accountability from Christ centered friendships in the future.
We have always had the desire to have great relationships with our kids based on honesty, communication, and most importantly, reminding them of their identity in Christ. We know that just dumping rules on them will not grow a relationship, because rules without relationship leads to rebellion.
The goal is to build a great relationship with your child that goes well beyond their teenage years, and to help them to create boundaries before they need them.
Parents Guide to Teenage Dating
When thinking of a family dating policy for your teenagers, it’s important to ask yourself three questions:
1| What is the goal?
We have what some would consider a pretty strict dating policy, but the truth is, our goal is to help our children go into adulthood with minimal baggage, and healthy structures for future relationships.
They won’t necessarily understand that goal, so we sit down and talk with our kids about the goals of learning how to build relationships with others. We want our kids to know how to communicate well, how to respect the person they have a crush on, as well as respecting their family, and ultimately honoring God.
2| Why do we need a plan?
We have determined three answers for our teenagers to help them understand why we approach dating the way we do.
1. To point you to Jesus.
2. To have consistent communication that grows and protects our relationship, and sets the foundation of having healthy relationships for the rest of your life.
3. To help you understand who you are in a relationship, to create accountability, and to help build your self-esteem by giving you healthy boundaries.
3| How will this plan help us accomplish the goal?
The thing to remember is that we want to define our plan based on our individual family way of life, how we define dating, and just how willing we are to follow through on our plan.
Now that we’ve covered the foundation for creating a dating policy, let’s look at my family’s approach to teenage dating.
Our Christian Family Dating Policy for Teens
What follows is certainly not a perfect approach, but one that has shown itself to be worthwhile in tackling our ultimate goal of helping our kids experience healthy relationships.
We have narrowed our approach to three choices our kids can make in teenage dating and relationships:
1. The “Best” Approach
2. The “Ok” Approach
3. The “We Got Probs” Approach
We decided to make it super clear in our family’s dating policy. The best plan always brings out the best results and the problematic plan always leads to distrust, broken relationships, and unwanted consequences.
That is why we share this over and over with our kids. It is not personal based on who they are trying to date, it is personal because we want what is best for each one of them.
The “Best” Approach
We share with our kids that the best approach to dating in high school is to not do it. We encourage Team Sniff to approach each and every relationship as a way to learn healthy patterns of behavior and communication.
The thought behind this approach is to take the pressure off of dating altogether and to create space for each kid to learn about themselves and others. There’s no rule that you have to date in high school, so this gives them an excuse to eliminate an entire set of potential worries, troubles, and frustrations.
Without purposely polarizing this topic, who really is mature enough to handle or create a healthy relationship in high school anyway?
So this approach provides space to enjoy and develop friendships. We encourage group outings and have tried to create our home to be a place where kids can come hang out for game and movie nights.
As an important side note, don’t be afraid to get to know your kids’ friends. Sure it might be awkward and most teenagers will not enjoy this part of the process at first, but it will ultimately create a more trusting environment to grow your relationship with your teen. And remember, that is the goal.
The “Ok” Approach
This approach is designed for the kid who simply “must” be in a relationship or who has found someone they really want to spend more time with.
Once one of our kids reaches the age of 16, this approach provides guardrails that we believe will create a healthier dating experience for all involved.
We encourage Team Sniff in the following areas:
- First and foremost, find someone who loves Jesus and who challenges you to love Jesus too.
- Second, dating is a family sport. We are all involved in this process.
Gatherings, meals, and outings are best done within the context of family so we encourage our teens to invite their current interest over for regular family interactions. We love having friends and family over, and so this approach feeds into an overall family value.
- Third, no “alone time.”
This often means a sibling, cousin, or very mature trusted friend becomes a “chaperone.” The goal here isn’t to punish, but to see how our kid and their date interact with the family. We can observe how this dating relationship either enhances or hinders our kids’ overall development.
Special consideration is taken for dances and other special events.
Communication is the most important part. Teaching our teens to be a person who communicates, hides nothing, and cares about others will, hopefully, help them be a more well-rounded adult.
- Fourth, take it slow.
There is no hurry and no rush to progress this relationship. You can always move forward in a relationship, but slowing the train down takes a lot of work.
Again, the goal isn’t to prevent dating, and this middle approach can still be a good experience. We desire to help our teens learn the healthy side of dating if they are set on doing so.
The “We Got Probs” Approach
This third approach is really an opportunity to communicate a warning.
We strongly believe that relationships are designed to be a blessing as long as certain parameters are learned.
Biblically speaking, often with a blessing comes a warning. In this case, the warning for our teens is that if they choose to not work at the first two approaches, then there will just be a lot of consequences, tension, turmoil, and problems that will arise.
By nature, when we choose to defy things that are designed for our good, our protection, and for our growth, there are consequences. Although we hope none of Team Sniff chooses this approach, we do speak to it as a choice– just not a very healthy or helpful choice– both in the short term or the long term.
We can’t reiterate it enough: the goal is not to control, but to create healthy, God-centered, family-oriented relationships that ultimately help our children on the journey to adulthood and beyond.
Final Thoughts Before You Make Your Own Teenage Dating Policy
Remember, God gave you the kids you have, and He knew you would need to lean on Him to parent them. Trust Him to guide you to do what works best for your crew.
Jason and I have prayed about this, borrowed tips from trusted friends, and taken things one day at a time. We encourage you to take our words, pray about them and create a plan that you can stick with. Truly, communication and consistency is the key.
Our goal isn’t our kids’ approval, but we desire for their purity to be protected, our relationship with them to grow stronger, and ultimately to honor God.
Pray for guidance, and then make a plan that works for you and your family. Let God use you and refine you during this process. It’s not easy but it is always worth it.
An Open Letter to My Teenage Son Parenting a teenage son is a wild experience. Read all the things on this mama’s heart– probably things you’ve felt, too!