Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover.
Topic: Improving the way you and your child experience the middle school years.
Issues: Helping your kid through real middle school problems, including social media, questions about sex, mean girls (and boys), and fitting in, dealing with bullies, fashion, peer pressure, dating, independence, and more.
Dear Mr. Dad, My 14-year-old daughter is obsessed with the idea that she needs to start dating. She says “all of her friends” are doing it, and feels left out. Fourteen just seems too young. I don’t think anyone—boy or girl—should start ‘til at least 16. I want to tell her “over my dead body” but I also don’t want to be that dad. What can I do?
A: As the father of three daughters—two of whom made it through their teen years without getting pregnant (the third is only 10 and I’m confident she’ll do the same)—I feel your pain. The very idea of your little girl, alone with a … boy, can bring up all sorts of emotions, headlined by anger (“Boys that age have only one thing on their mind”) and worry (How can I possibly protect her?”).
Let’s start with the “only-one-thing-on-their-mind” idea. Do you really believe that? TV, movies, and the Internet put a lot of pressure on teens to have as much sex as they can as often as they can, with as many different people as possible. But the reality is that the majority of boys your daughter’s age are petrified of girls, and what’s most likely on their mind is, “I’m hungry.”
As far as the “how-can-I-protect-her” idea, you have two things going for you. First, your daughter herself doesn’t sound like she’s all that into it and just wants to date because everyone else is. By telling you that, she’s almost begging you to say No. Second, even if dating were her idea, you’re right: 14 is too young for serious one-on-one dating.
That said, you can’t just play the tough guy and expect her to be happy about it. In fact, the more forcefully you forbid dating, the more you’ll push her towards it. Here’s what to do instead.
- Really Talk to Her. You have a wonderful opportunity here. Your daughter actually came to you with a problem. That says a huge amount (in a good way) about your relationship. Ask her to tell you more about the dating her friends are doing, the pressure she feels, and what she actually means by “dating” (you might be thinking, “dinner, movie, make out in the back seat of the car”; she might be thinking “hold hands and share an ice cream cone”). Listen carefully and don’t be judgmental. When you sense an opportunity, talk to her about the dangers of dating, including violence (which, by the way is just as likely to be initiated by girls as by boys). Talk about relationships, sex, and the finances involved. You’re not going to wrap this up in one conversation, so take it a step at a time.
- Establish some dating rules. Number one is that group dates are okay, one-on-one dates are not. End of story. Group dates let her be with the boy who makes her blush, but in a setting where inappropriate behavior is a lot less likely.
- Tag along. In my view, groups of young teens shouldn’t be out and about without an adult nearby—there’s too much opportunity for things to go wrong. And if you want your daughter to see how serious you are, be the chaperone. Don’t be right in the middle of the group or try to be everyone’s buddy—that would only embarrass your daughter. Instead, walk half a block behind and sit a few rows away in the movie. But be there. Watch carefully, and let her enjoy herself.
[amazon asin=0142196924&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Noel Janis-Norton, author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting.
Topic: Five strategies that end daily battles and get kids to listen the first time.
Issues: A step-by-step plan that will help you raise a child who is cooperative, considerate, confident, and self-reliant. The five strategies are: descriptive praise, preparing for success, reflective listening, never ask twice, and rewards and consequences.
[amazon asin=0465018947&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, author of In Her Own Sweet Time.
Topic: Finding love, commitment, and motherhood as a single woman
Issues: Testing your fertility and what the results show about your ability to conceive; what it’s really like to search for a sperm donor; how to date while still thinking about motherhood; the joys and challenges of becoming a single mother by choice.
[amazon asin=B002F082A8&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Jeffrey Bernstein, author of Liking the Child You Love.
Topic: Build a better relationship with your kids even when they’re driving you crazy.
Issues: Taming the most common toxic thought patterns that stop us from parenting effectively, including the “always” or “never” trap, seething sarcasm; emotional overheating; “should” slamming, and dooming conclusions.
[amazon asin=1455511676&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]In case you missed it, Paul Banas from GreatDad.com and I did a terrific Google Hangout with comedian and author Josh Wolf. His new book,It Takes Balls, is a hilarious look at dating, coaching, raising kids, and the mysteries of being a single dad. But there’s something there for everyone.
Watch the Hangout here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WNfMo5S3x2A
Dear Mr. Dad: I have been dating a divorced dad for a year now. I’ve met his two awesome daughters. We’ve hung out together but they don’t know that I’m in a relationship with their dad. How do we tell them that we are more than friends in a way that will be least disruptive and will produce the best results?
A: Dating a divorced dad can be a pretty daunting prospect and you’re one brave woman to be doing it. You’re absolutely right to be thinking about this now, but I’d be willing to bet that your boyfriend’s daughters are already on to you. Kids are a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for, and if they’ve hung out with you at non-work-related functions (office parties and picnics, for example), they’ve already connected the dots or at least suspect that something’s up.
Ideally, you’d have kept your relationship with their dad a complete secret until you were ready to tell them. However, the fact that the girls already know you may work to your advantage by making it easier for them to accept you when you make the official announcement. Hopefully, your boyfriend wouldn’t let his kids’ opinions of you dictate whether or not your relationship continues, but getting their “approval” is important. Those girls are going to be a part of your life for a long time and they’ll always have some influence over their dad. Sounds like you’re off to a good start.
The key to successfully dating a divorced dad and getting in his daughters’ good graces is to take things slow. Let them gradually get used to you being a part of his—and their—life. Children are usually very protective of their parents (this is especially true of daughters and their dads) and they’ll lash out if they feel that you’re not the right person for their dad or that you’re “up to no good.” The slow-and-steady approach will reduce the odds that this will happen to you.
As for the mechanics of spilling the beans, dad should be the one who starts the conversation. Something like, “I know you’ve already met Audrey and you know her as my friend. But we’re really more than just friends.” Give the kids a chance to respond. Since they know you, there’s a good chance that their response will be a yawn.
Put some thought into where this is going to happen. There are no absolute rules, of course. Home is good because it’s the girls’ territory and they’ll feel more comfortable there (plus they can go running off to their rooms if they need to get away). A public place could be good because it’s neutral territory (but you may end up incredibly embarrassed if the girls pitch a fit). Either way, leave plenty of time to answer questions.
Even after your status change (from friend to girlfriend) has been confirmed, keep taking things slowly. Hold hands with their dad and kiss every once in a while, but don’t go overboard. And avoid overnighters for a while longer. The kids need time to adjust and having you move into their house—or even just leaving a toothbrush on the bathroom sink—could be too jarring.
Finally—and maybe most importantly—be a friend to the girls, but make it clear that you’re not trying to be their mother. They have one of those already. What they really want to know is whether you’re going to love and care for their dad. All you have to do is show them.
Under the best of circumstances, dating can be pretty stressful. But what happens if you’ve suffered from addiction and/or been in rehab? How do you get back in the game? In today’s guest post, Terry Stegall has some great advice.
You’ve left rehab feeling a new found sense of optimism; you’re wondering if the time is right to share your new sober life with a significant other. The dating world is treacherous and gut-wrenchingly terrifying enough without attempting to remain clean. Dealing with all the emotional highs and lows of makeups, break-ups and the dreaded singles scene is stressful enough as is.
Before jumping feet first and blindfolded in shark-infested waters, take a step back, examine your life and take a thorough look, before allowing someone to share your present and future. You may think you’re ready, but it’s important to realize that beginning a new (and potentially tumultuous) relationship, could prove detrimental to your sobriety.