Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Playing The Dating Game

July 21, 1997

Dear Dr. Farmer,

I have a 16-year-old daughter about to enter the dating stage. That can be a troubling time for parents with "gorilla" boys out there - drugs, date rape and drinking. You went through this with your daughters didn't you?

A daughter's advice to a teen-age girl

You are probably expecting to find my dad's words in this spot. Well, today you're going to get both a father's and daughter's view on dating. I'm his 20-year-old daughter, Tawny. For some reason he thinks that I'm more experienced in this area than he is and asked for my help. So here's my advice to a typical teen-age girl.

Be glad you waited until 16 to date. My parents held me to this rule, and now I'm beginning to see why. I needed to take my time growing up. Why rush into things when you're only a kid once? Get to know yourself and your values at this time.

Good friendships can be developed at any age. The best relationships start as friendships. Peer pressure to pair off into couples will be strong. It may be hard to turn down that hot date when you're 15 -and-a-half, but later you'll be thankful you took your time growing up.

Set your standards now. My best piece of advice is this - use abstinence. Don't be ho-hum about your decision to abstain from sex until marriage. Be firm. Otherwise, you won't make it. Where are you going to draw the line? Decide before you leave for your first date. If don't decide in advance, the heat of the moment takes control.

Remember, alcohol can make you weak to temptations. Don't even get near that stuff. It may not be easy, but it is well worth it to save yourself for your future husband.

Caution: Steady dating can be hazardous. If you get too involved with a guy, other parts of your life will start to fade away. High school is a good time to develop some of your talents. Please don't make the mistake of dropping everything for a boyfriend.

Keep doing your extracurricular activities. Work hard in school. Don't always be home when he calls. Make him wonder what you're up to. Carry out a goal or dream. Encourage him to keep up his hobbies too.

Don't forget your other friends. Have a "girls night out" every once in a while. They'll be happy to have you along. If you don't maintain these other relationships, you'll find yourself friendless after the boy is "history."

Group dating is a wonderful thing. Not only does it keep you in touch with your other friends, but it's also tons more fun than going to the movies. I'd also recommend it for first dates, not to mention blind dates. (A quick word on curfews - I know they can be a pain, but don't badmouth them too much because curfews can be a ready excuse to get out of a bad situation.)

To find the right person, be the right person. Develop those attributes you'd want in a future spouse. If you're unkind and deceitful, it maybe quite a challenge to find a kind, honest man that would want to date you. if you're living a good life based on religious values and principles, you should have no problem attracting a faithful, worthy man. Goodness attracts goodness. -Tawny

Dad's advice to parents

Your daughter's values and choice of friends with high standards will mean everything at this point. Hopefully you will already have confidence and trust in her decision-making. Give her freedom within certain strict limits and enjoy this trusting relationship until you have reason to think otherwise. Knowing who she is with, where she is at, when she will be borne and that she is strong enough to follow her own values despite peer pressure will be the most assurance you can have.

Your own relationship makes a difference. Your love, concern, values, vigilance, good relationship and open communication will provide another bedrock for your daughter's choices. Make your expectations known and have ready consequences if she slips up. Don't be afraid to be strict parents.

Get to know your daughter's friends and the young men she dates. Insist on meeting them. Have them in your home. Strike up a relationship with them. Talk with them and find out a little about what they are like. Don't be afraid to communicate with their parents about concerns or activities. Learn which friends you can trust and which ones you have concerns about. Even though your daughter might feel uncomfortable, talk to her about her friends and her opinions about them.

Give strong rules and advice about how to avoid compromising situations.

  • Expect her to dress modestly.
  • Give her this strong message - don't allow or give sexual touch. Period. Allowing some sexual touch starts hormonally-charged adolescents down a slippery slope where they lose control
  • No being in a bedroom with a boy. No going to an unoccupied home with a boy. No staying up with a boy in your or his home after the parents have gone to bed. No going off into the "boondocks" with a boy. No "parking." No drinking or being with a boy who is drinking.
  • No late hours. I consider anything past 1:00 a.m. late. Our own curfew is midnight except for special occasions.

Does that help? - Dr. Farmer