Let's refer to the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet for a discussion on dating (pp. 24-25). You will want to begin having discussion with your child about dating when they are about 12-14 (after puberty, but before a lot of their friends are beginning to date).
1. Let's start with the quote in italics: "The Lord has made us attractive to one another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes a powder keg unless it is kept under control...."
Girls don't always know that sitting on a boy's lap, or wearing immodest clothing can stimulate a male in sexual ways. They don't realize a boy's eyes are drawn to their crotch when they sit in a short skirt with their legs wide open. You need to teach them this! Teach them to control their bodies through their appearance and posture. Modesty in dress, appearance, language, and attitude will help keep attraction within appropriate bounds. Also, let them know it's okay for them to be attracted to someone else! It's normal and, *gasp,* DESIGNED by the Lord that way. We are SUPPOSED to have these feelings. We just need to learn how to "harness" them. Teach your boys or girls what to do if they find their attraction is starting to stimulate them sexually. They can think of a song, read a book, do homework.........It's not bad to have these kinds of feelings. Your youth can take hold of the greatness of these feelings and save them for an appropriate time and place. I like to say, "hold that thought...."
2. Still in italics: "It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating." So, we don't date until we are age 16. Why? Because these feelings are sooooooooooo strong. These feelings are very new for youth. New feelings are experienced very strongly. It's like when you taste a delicious new food for the first time, usually something chocolate ;) You say, mmmmmmmmmmmm, and want more. But, as you have this food more often, the novelty wears off and you already know what to expect. Youth are getting their first taste of, mmmmmmmmmm. As they have these feelings more often, they will learn what to expect and how to handle them. Youth are very inexperienced at handling novel dating/relationship situations. These statistics on dating young are taken from "Speaking of Kissing" by Bruce Monson:
- "One of the most crucial factors in staying morally clean ...... [is] choosing to wait until age 16 to date" (all stats are approximates)
- 70% who don't date until age 16 avoid immoral behavior
- >80% who date before age 16 become sexually involved enough to require a bishop’s help for repentance
4. "Go in groups or on double dates. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person." More statistics from "Speaking of Kissing:"
- For those age 16 and older - Only 2% of youth with a steady boyfriend have NOT been involved in making out
- Age 16 and older - About half of youth with a steady boyfriend have transgressed the law of chastity
Also, why do we have steady boyfriends? What is the purpose of dating one person exclusively? Well, because we're ready to get married and have a partner. Is your youth in high school really looking to get married? I hope not. They are preparing for a mission, or college, or just working toward graduating high school. We begin steady dating when we are really serious about finding a marital partner. I had a boyfriend in high school (yes, I didn't follow this counsel because I didn't really understand it then; your job is to teach it to your child so they can really understand it ;). He once told me that I wasn't someone he usually dated. I was someone he took home to meet his mom and get married to! I asked him, "What do you do when you're ready to get married, just look at a girl and say, 'that's the one?' without dating her?" Dating in high school is practice for steady dating when you're really ready to get married. It's for having fun and meeting new people, forming friendships and learning about relationships.
5. Meet the parents. This means you are involved in having your son bring his dates home, or you stay up and meet the boy that is taking your daughter out. You don't need to have your shotgun ready to be intimidating to a youth on a date. They are already nervous about meeting parents. Be kind and inquisitive. Find out information about your child's date so you can really get to know them. This shows your child you respect them and their choices. You are also showing them how to be respectful of the person they are going on a date with.
6. "Plan dating activities that are positive and inexpensive and that will help you get to know each other." Movies are not exactly places where you can talk and discuss your wildest dreams. Your teen might not understand that. Remember, they are new to dating, the reasons for dating, and the feelings associated with dating.
IDEAS FOR PARENTS:
1. Define terms with your child. For example, what does it mean to "frequently date?" They are counseled to "avoid frequent dates with the same person." You need to define frequent with them. It's a personal, family decision and may be different for every child. My parents did not like me dating my high school boyfriend because I didn't want to date anyone else. They gave me a rule (at age 15 - a little too late) that I needed to go on a date with another boy before I could go on a date with my boyfriend. I couldn't go on two dates with him in a row. This was difficult for all of us because they gave me this rule after they started to see a problem. You are discussing this BEFORE dating so you can avoid the problem. Your child needs to understand the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The letter of the law is "frequent." You decide if that's once a month, twice a year, twice a month, whatever. You discuss it with your child BEFORE they start dating. This is the letter of the law. You can even let them help you decide (you may have to modify as they start dating, but you've established the rule of "frequent" and your child will understand the need to modify it). The spirit of the law is that your child is not ready to get married and needs some time to mature and gain experience before they are ready to begin dating to find that marital partner
2. Have your child give a Family Home Evening lesson on dating where they can include a list of dating ideas that are inexpensive, fun, and help them get to know another person. They may need help with that, since they've never dated ;) If they already have a list, they may feel more confident in asking for, or accepting dates.
3. Teach your child how to politely be rejected or reject an offer for a date. Let your child know that they don't have to go on a date just because someone asked. Let them know they need to be honest (aka, not just the "I'm busy every night" excuse). Teach them how to take a rejection for a date. It can be painful, and acknowledge that, but teach them how to be understanding and confident in their worth as a person.