Dating is not like it used to be is it? It has changed dramatically over the years and still continues to change regularly with culture. We are living in a world of technology and dating conversations over snap chat and Instagram, “promposals”, and expectations held by our children in what society and culture say love is. So how do we as parents teach our kids about dating and guide them to Jesus with all the troubles, boundaries and questions within it?

Listed below are four facts that will give you more confidence in walking your child through dating.

1. You get to define dating for your child.

Hear this parents, your child will find their definition of dating from somewhere. Who better to define the term for them than the people who know them best and love them the most? You as parents either get to define that for them, or they will find the answers they are looking for in culture, friendships and what the world says is okay.

So, what is the actual definition of “dating”? We can first start off answering this question of what dating is not! Dating is NOT marriage.  Genesis 2:24 says, “ This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” Our children do not need to meet cultures expectations by making their relationship(s) more serious than it needs to be:

  • If they are in an emotional, physical, or any form of unhealthy relationship, they should feel full freedom to stop dating.
  • There needs to be healthy boundaries in the relationship. This means emotionally. This means physically. This means in maturity of what they are ready for.

A few things to remember when forming your definition for your child:

  • Have the hard conversations regularly and often.
  • Talk about boundaries and expectations.
  • Speak their worth, value and identity in Jesus to them and encourage them to view other people the same way.
  • Define it around where each child is emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
  • Your definitions will all look different because all of your children and other people’s children are very different.

2. You get to set the tone for dating.

Show your child what dating looks like. Parents, be a model for your children in what is looks like to love each other well. For more information on this, see this article: My Son’s First Date

The goal is that your sons and daughters will have a tone set for them in dating and will be able to confidently walk into dating knowing what is acceptable and what is not. But this has to come from you because culture is pulling them in the opposite direction. Remember, you can never do this too early!

3. Nothing is ever set in stone.

Every child is different and they change with age physically, spiritually and where they are at sexually in maturity. Have the dating conversation often in your home. Make it a point of conversation so that your child is used to you talking and asking about it. Doing this makes you a safe place. It also keeps you in the “know” of what is going on in your child’s life and school.

Below are some questions for you to walk your child through in regards to dating:

  • What are some physical or sexual things that our culture says is okay or even normal in a dating relationship?
  • Which of these things you listed do you agree with or you think are okay with doing? Which do you disagree with? Why?
  • Based upon where you are at spiritually and physically, what boundaries do you feel like you need in a dating relationship and why? How can we as your parents hold you accountable to that?
  • What are ways you could potentially fall into sin without knowing those boundaries?

4. You are not alone.

Utilize people in your life to walk alongside you as you parent your child whether that be trusted friends, people in a stage of life ahead of you, or your church staff. The most important thing you can do for your child is to regularly submit and surrender them to the Lord trusting that He is in control and you are not.

A few reminders in regards to this:

  • Your child will not be perfect in dating. You should have a healthy expectation of them in this and be ready to parent them in love and grace as they experience failure.
  • Do not run and hide when things get messy and do not teach your child to do that either. Remember God is glorified when darkness is brought to the light. Try to see those difficult moments as an opportunity for the gospel to sanctify and transform your child into His image. This is an opportunity for healing and redemption to occur in his/her life.
  • The end goal is not perfect dating; the end goal is your child being brought closer to Jesus as they date and grow.

By Kayla Self and Curtis Lane

For more on this topic, view the teaching session on Dating and Your Teen.