Yes, the prom as we knew it still exists, but even its drama pales in comparison to today’s boy-girl relationship issues.“It’s not your parents’ dating anymore,” concedes Robin Gurwitch, a clinical psychologist at the Duke Center for Child and Family Health.“We don’t have the vocabulary and we don’t have the experiences to be able to help.Parents should establish ground rules for texting members of the opposite sex and explain the importance of avoiding any form of “sexting.” Parents should also monitor their child’s text conversations and follow/friend them on any social media sites where they have accounts.Young teens have especially fragile egos, so negative peer feedback on social media can be especially damaging.This is a prime opportunity to find out what they find appropriate and desirable in a romantic partner, says Crystal Reardon, director of counseling for Wake County Public School System. You have to respect your children’s feelings but also want to help keep them safe.”What to watch for: Girls usually don’t want to bring someone they’re just talking to home to their parents, say both Megan and Jennifer, so be prepared for some flak if you insist.“You never want the guy to think you’re going, ‘Oh, we’re dating, so I want you to meet them,’” Megan says.On the other hand, she adds, “if you’re really dating, at some point you absolutely do want your parents to meet him.”Events are a Group Experience Your teen doesn’t have to be dating or talking to anyone to have a date to the prom, winter formal or Sadie Hawkins dance.A fairly high bar stands between this phase and actual “dating,” wherein one member of the couple — usually the boy — officially asks the other out.
What to watch for: It’s time to have the “values and expectations” talk if you haven’t already.
Ed Parrish, a banker and father of four from Graham, has noticed that his 13-year-old son has started asking his older sister if her friend’s younger sister can join her on visits to the Parrish home. Sometimes, his son will go to the movies with guy friends and “meet up” with a group of girls from school, Parrish says.
He feels comfortable with these early forays because “we’ve given him the talk about the need to respect young ladies and what we expect of him.”What to watch for: Cellphones and social media can lay traps for preteens and young teens.
She says as cringe-inducing as this conversation will be, it has to get done. “There’s something about not sitting next to each other on a couch that makes this easier for both you and your child.”Love Hurts, Regardless of Your Age Just because teens are more casual and sophisticated about dating doesn’t mean they don’t still suffer heartbreak.
Even 14- and 15-year-olds can fall in love, Reardon says.“To a child or teenager who is experiencing this, it is very real and very important,” she says.The group eats dinner together, poses for pictures together and attends the dance together. ’”What to watch for: Officially, it’s OK for kids who aren’t part of a large friend group to go with just a date or with another couple, and it’s OK for kids to go “stag.” Unofficially, there are unwritten rules that your teen knows might discourage him from attending even if he wants to.