The issues that come up with teenage dating — FranklyStein

MaggieBenA few months ago, our “Good Parenting” columnist answered a question about a teenager who wanted to spend the night at her boyfriend's house. When we posted the column on Facebook, at least one parent was shocked that this was an issue.

This was one of those questions my husband and I weren't prepared for when our teens started dating. Last year, my daughter asked if her then-boyfriend could spend the night at our house after her junior prom so he wouldn't have to drive home. Since it was a special occasion with extenuating circumstances, we said yes, but we put them on separate floors and kept a close eye on them.

This year, however, when she wanted to spend the night at her boyfriend's house on New Years Eve so she wouldn't have to drive home, we felt differently. We didn't like the idea of her spending the night there — where we couldn't monitor the situation — but we didn't want her driving home either. So we nixed the sleepover and picked her up shortly after midnight. She wasn't thrilled, but it was the decision we were the most comfortable with at the time.

If you are looking for some guidance on teenage dating, check out our Parent's Guide to Teenage Dating. We try to cover questions you might want to discuss with your teens before they start dating, as well as warning signs to look out for once they start.

Mostly, the story stresses the importance of talking to your kids. Don't shy away from the difficult conversations because they could end up turning to their peers for information or even the internet. We definitely forced ourselves to discuss dating with our kids early on. We took each of the three teenagers on their own weekend getaway in middle school for the sole purpose of talking about values, peer pressure and our expectations. It was an amazing bonding experience, and it opened the door for many future conversations.

When our son had his first girlfriend in ninth grade, he knew he could talk to us. He told us about conversations he had with her, when he was confused by things she said, and he filled us in when they broke up. Since then, he's had several other relationships and he's never hesitated to discuss the tough issues with us.

My oldest daughter, now a senior in high school, has been dating the same boy for nine months. It's probably a little more serious than I would prefer, but the relationship seems healthy. They don't spend every waking moment together, they don't seem obsessed with each other, and they seem to have fun. Occasionally, she's come to me to talk about the relationship — sharing some of the high points as well as some things that have troubled her. And I'm so glad when she does.

As my kids dabble in the dating world, I hope they will remember all we've told them. I hope they make good choices, but if they don't, I hope they know we are there for them, and that we will love them no matter what.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.