“Our daughters are on the cusp of dating and we’re not sure how to go about ‘screening’ the boys that want to take them out. We know we should do something, but cleaning a shotgun in front of them (as fun as that might be) seems extreme. If you write a blog about it, I’ll read it.”
That’s how our Community Group closed its meeting this past Sunday night.
So here we are!
What everyone can (should?) be able to agree on is there are two extremes to avoid when deciding how to guide our children through the early years of their dating:
- Being lax to the point that we put our children in a vulnerable position.
- Being rigid to the point that we exasperate them and possibly push them to go behind our backs so we have no idea who they are spending their time with.
We could call these the guard rails. I’m convinced that there is much freedom between these two extremes and each family should tailor their approach to each child that they have. That’s right, I’m recommending that you consider being flexible enough to change the rules as each of your children come to this issue so you can honor them as people, not just ram them into mold of their older siblings. As an experiment, just ask one of your younger children over dinner sometime if you’ve done this before and they can probably provide you with a few examples.
What I’d love to do here is provide one possibility for you to consider in this blog with the hope that some of my youth pastor/youth worker friends weigh in as well as all of those who gained wisdom by leading their families through this season.
My freedom with a seat belt approach is this:
Have your child meet their date at a shopping mall or restaurant and join them for the introduction. This way you can look the date in the eye, ask them a few questions about their family or hobbies (practice small talk!) and simply get a feel for them. Then have them let you know where they are headed for some time alone. Maybe they get frozen yogurt and you go grab a drink during happy hour. Have a set time and place where you’ll meet again and then you’ll get another moment or two with them before everyone heads home.
Seems simple, right?
But there are a few important elements included to consider:
- This lets the date know that you are nearby, which should promote good choices!
- An end time. They can always call early but this puts some parameters on you waiting past the time when you feel comfortable.
- It keeps you from hovering. Please, don’t be the parents who sit across the restaurant. It makes your children feel awkward and it’s just weird.
Also, whatever you decide, I’d encourage you to talk to your children about what feels comfortable to them. They may feel most comfortable with something more restrictive than what you land on.
In his book Reason for God, Tim Keller said this:
“Freedom is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us.”
What’s the nature of your child? Are they mature for their age or…normal? Chances are you’ll have to tailor your solution to your family and more specifically to each child. But what you should avoid is one of the extremes mentioned above, being too lax or too rigid.
Ok, I stuck my inexperienced neck out first. Anyone brave enough to comment on the blog or on our social media pages?