She thought you were kidding when you said that you did not want her to date before she is 40. At 16, your daughter is probably old enough for dating, but she is too young to know all the dangers and pitfalls that come with dating. Rules about dating are not trying to prevent her from participating in this normal, healthy social experience -- the rules have a purpose. You should create limits that give you peace of mind and that keep her safe.
When and Where She Dates
If your 16 year old does not already have a curfew, now might be the time to set one. The website HealthyChildren.org suggests a school night curfew of between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and a curfew between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on other nights. Explain that the curfew is rigid and that she must be home by curfew -- and tell her the consequences of coming home late. Beyond her nightly curfew, you might set rules that dictate when and how much she can date -- especially if you have concerns about her schoolwork or other responsibilities that might suffer. For instance, you might let her go out with a boy on a Friday or Saturday night, or you might allow her only one weeknight date per week. The NYU Child Study Center also suggests that parents make rules about teens inviting dates over. Tell her she is welcome to have boys over, but that a parent must be at home and that she and her date must stay in public areas.
The cell phone that your teen has seemingly glued to her fingertips comes in handy when she starts dating. Make it a rule that she must share information with you about her date before she goes out and that she must update you if plans change. Tell her that she cannot go out unless you know where she is going, with whom she is going, and when she plans to be back. Ask that she text or call you if she knows she is going to be late -- even if she knows that she is going to break curfew -- and that she must immediately call you to pick her up if she ever feels unsafe or if her date makes her feel uncomfortable.
Who She Dates
You cannot control who she daydreams about or who asks her out, but you can exercise veto power if necessary. Tell your daughter that you have final say over whom you allow her to date. Explain to her that you will not veto a date just because you do not know him well or he is in a different grade, but that you will only say no if you truly feel her date is inappropriate. For instance, your 16-year-old daughter probably does not need to be dating a 21-year-old. You might also ask that the boy come into the house to meet you before she goes out. Date type is another consideration. Though pediatrician Dr. Ron Eagar tells HealthyChildren.org that 16 is an appropriate age for a teen to start dating one-on-one, you might feel your daughter is not ready and make a rule that you only allow her on group dates for now.
Sex is one the scariest, most uncomfortable subjects for many parents to broach with their teen girls. Making a "no sex" rule probably will not stop your 16-year-old from having sex if she wants to, but other rules about the subject might help. Share your personal and religious beliefs about sex, and tell her if you want her to wait until she is older or until she marries. If you deem it appropriate, you might also tell her that if she is going to have sex, she must protect herself at all times. Help her obtain birth control if you are concerned that she is going to have sex soon. The New York University Child Study Center urges parents to make computer rules for dating teens. Tell your teen that you do not allow her to send sexual photos of herself to dates over the Internet (or via her cell phone), and that she should not engage in sexual talk via these outlets.
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