Kids, parenting

What I Wish I’d Known as a Teenager about Dating

WHAT I WISH I'D KNOWN AS A TEENAGER-2

It’s the start of a new year! Most of us have probably made New Year’s resolutions and goals that we’d like to accomplish in 2018. But have we made any goals that involve what we plan on teaching our children?

As parents sometimes we get busy teaching our children the day to day life lessons that we forget to teach one of the bigger lessons, such as understanding what dating is and why it’s important.

When I was in High School one of the main things on my mind was if I would have any opportunities to date. Going on a date at the time meant that someone found me attractive, wanted to date me all the time and that we would end up being boyfriend and girlfriend.

If I got asked out even once, I almost automatically assumed the boy liked me as more than “just friends”.  Isn’t this a typical mindset of High School students?! I hope so at least!

Jumping forward 10 years and going out on a date has a completely different meaning to me.

It now means spending time with someone in order to get to know them better and to see if this is someone I would enjoy spending more time with. The guy doesn’t necessarily have to like me as more than friends or an acquaintance. What a drastic change! How did this happen?

5 Lessons I Wish I Knew and How we as Parents Can Teach Them

There are 5 main lessons teenagers and young adults need to understand as they start the process of maturing and interacting with people who they would like to eventually be committed to.

“A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and young woman to get to know each other. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help them learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have fun, and eventually help them find a future companion.”

1.     Do I Need Someone to Complete Me/Make Me Happy?

The fundamental answer to this question is an absolute NO!

When I was a teenager I would have thoughts like, “When I get married, I will finally be happy”, or “When I get married, I will become better at organizing, be more outgoing, I’ll know how to cook better,” and the list goes on and on.

These and other similar thoughts are thoughts that many young people have. They look to the future for better things to come and think once they finally happen then they will be happy. They will wait for a partner to start being the best they can be, to learn certain things, and they don’t think that they can possibly be happy now without it.

This thought process is perpetual, and the grass will always be greener on the other side.

What we need to help our children realize is that you don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend in your life to be happy. You don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend to be in your life to accomplish your goals and dreams. You can be happy now and you don’t have to hold back to be your best self.

2.     Love vs. Attraction

We hear so often young people (teens/ young adults) say, “But mom I love him! You just don’t understand!” But honestly, do they really understand what love is?

When we hear the word “love” we usually think of the love between a male and female. There’s the kissing, the cuddling, hand holding, and eventually sex, right? However, this kind of love is not applied to everything. I mean when we say “I love you, dad,” we don’t also mean that we ever have the desire to make out with him right?

Mental picture…………………………………………Ewww no!

So what does love actually mean if it’s not applied to both situations?

The difference is that attraction is involved with someone around our age and not towards our parents, siblings, most friends, grandparents, etc.

Love is the deep emotional connection we have with those people who are close to us. It comes from time, hardships, patience, and service.

Attraction is what makes us crave the physical pleasure. It comes from hormones, how pretty or good looking the other person is, fun times you have with this person, kissing, cuddling, hand holding, and eventually sex.

Some teenagers might dispute this difference, saying love and attraction are basically the same things. But again, when we say we love our mom or dad that doesn’t mean we want to make out with them. There IS a difference.

The attraction, or “twitterpation” stage, is what most of us feel at the beginning of relationships, but we should not confuse this feeling with love. Love will come with time and experience.

3.      “Soul Mates”

Many people, including teenagers, have probably thought at least once that they want to find their “soul mate.”

First of all, there is no such thing as ONE person you are supposed to marry. It’s simply a ridiculous idea that there is only one person in the entire world that you are meant to find, and thanks to Hollywood chick-flicks we ALL have this thought process (though they are fun to watch!).

There can be, however, a certain type of person you are meant to marry. But how do we teach our children what type of person they like? We teach them that they need to go on many dates to see what kind of person they are attracted to both physically and personality wise.

It’s not a bad thing to date a lot of people; in fact, it is a very good thing! There is a strange notion that if you “date around” you are a player. We need to help young adults understand that going on lots of dates is a good thing. Of course in a committed relationship, dating around is wrong.

We need to help young adults understand that going on lots of dates is a good thing

It is also important to teach our children what type of person they should become starting at a young age.

Raising boys to become gentlemen is something that isn’t as popular as it used to be, but boys who know how to treat a girl with respect, and know how to be chivalrous, is something everyone is looking for, I promise.

Raising girls to become more feminine. Being feminine does not mean being someone that others can walk over, or someone who is helpless. Being feminine is a strength that not many women have in today’s society.

I know you might be thinking, “I want my daughter to be strong and independent!” but this video explains my point perfectly!

4.     What is a good date?

Dating has become more serious than it used to be.

As I described earlier, as a teenager I assumed going out on a date, even once, meant there was something more serious involved. If dating was meant to be casual and fun, then how did it become something so serious?

Dallin Oaks gives a seminar in which he describes the differences between dating and hanging out, and what a good date should look like.

Helping our children follow these guidelines to good dating can help with the confusion some feel about what to do. A good date should include these three things:

     1. Planned Ahead:

Making sure there is actually a plan, and letting the young woman know what it is well in advance so she can prepare. Avoid showing up to pick up your date and asking “so what do you want to do?”

By making sure a plan is made before the actual date helps teach young men how to be leaders and organizers. This is helping them practice for not only a future marriage but also in life and future careers.

It also shows young women what kinds of men they should look for. Men who will take the initiative to plan something and take charge, and to be responsible.  

     2. Paid For:

As a general rule (at least for me) if a guy asks me out and we end up going somewhere that requires money, I’m expecting him to pay for me. If I ask a guy out it’s a different story. If we begin dating long term, then paying for dates can be discussed and equalized.

When a boy pays for his date, it teaches him how to provide. In essence, this is practice on how to provide for a future family.

When a girl sees a boy pay for her, it helps show her that he is responsible, and it helps teach her how to be treated right. It doesn’t mean that she can’t pay, but it shows her what it’s like to be taken care of (even just for one night). Girls should also be taught to say “Thank You” when a guy pays, instead of expecting it and not saying anything.

     3. Paired Off:  

You + your date. No third wheel friend, not a bunch of random people that you bring with you, just you and your date. You asked them out specifically, which means there is a commitment of short duration expected.

When guys ask a girl out they are then also responsible for her safety and well-being. This helps teach him how to be a protector, because he is now responsible, for a short period of time, for someone other than himself.

Protection from others and sketchy areas are included, but it can also be from each other. Guys shouldn’t force the girl to kiss them or make out, they should respect her space and never try and do anything that would make her uncomfortable.

When a girl goes out with a guy she should feel safe with him and should feel like he will take care of her for the duration of their date. This helps teach her how she should be treated and how she feels about this certain individual.


  1.     Discussing the Dating Rules or Guidelines for your Family

Dating is fun, and adolescents should be allowed to experience it when they are of an age that is appropriate. This is based on every family’s personal guidelines, but they should definitely be discussed and solidified.

For me, 16 is when I could start going out on group dates. Each of us had an individual date, but there were multiple couples involved. Notice that this is actually a group DATE, instead of a hangout.

Now as an adult, I don’t have as many group dates because my focus is now on finding someone who I could see spending the rest of my life with. I’m not looking for that at 16, and my maturity level has increased (well, in some areas at least).

Parents need to discuss with each other:

-The age your children can start to date.

        -Is there an age difference between group dates vs. single dates?

-Curfew and what time is appropriate for weekdays and weekends

-How involved you are knowing where they are, who they are with, what the activity is, etc.

Dating is how children and young adults practice their social skills, and it exposes them to different types of people. It can be looked at as an educational experience, but overall it is FUN and should be FUN!

Dating doesn’t have to be so serious, and teaching our children these points will help them feel like dating is something they can do frequently and with a confident attitude.

-Written by Lisa Jensen. 

Lisa Jensen is a recent graduate of BYU-Idaho with her degree in marriage and family studies. She has spent the last semester interning for Confessions of Parenting. She is striving to help young adults and teenagers become more confident in themselves. Lisa hopes to help parents become more informed and involved with topics that children and young adults. 

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WHAT I WISH I'D KNOWN AS A TEENAGER

1 thought on “What I Wish I’d Known as a Teenager about Dating”

  1. Thank you so much for this thought provoking article. I asked my 15-year-old daughter, “what does it mean as a teenager when you go on a date?“ She said that she has gotten to know him in the group, but they are attracted to each other & interested in becoming an exclusive couple when they go on a date. I wonder if the boys think the same thing? I also like the distinction between love and attraction! Will share this post!

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