As Latter-Day Saint parents, you want to have rules in place to protect your kids, but not too many that you shelter your kid. So, how can you navigate and create good reasonable rules for your dating teens?
Dating rules for Latter-Day Saint teenagers can include a curfew, going with one or more couples, and waiting until 16 to date. Parents can also enforce rules like homework needing to be done, driving rules, and the parents need to know who, where, and when their child is dating.
Every family is different, even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Dat Saints. Parents grew up with different experiences and have different rules for different things. But, navigating rules for dating can be hard, so here are some ideas inspired by the For the Strength of Youth.
What is a Date?
First off, you need to have a definition or an idea of what a date is to make rules for it. That way, when your teenager comes up to you with their plan for a date you can tell them if they are actually just planning a hangout or a date.
“A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better.” (Source)
Dating is a way to practice social skills, make friends, and down the road, is the way you can meet and get to know your spouse. It is important to start these skills while young, but starting too young can create unnecessary problems or can create awkwardness for the teen.
In the US, teens can drive at the age of 16. So, dating before that would mean mom or dad needs to pick up and drop off the teen for the date, which can feel awkward.
Waiting until 16 to date has more perks and benefits than it has downsides. Talk with your teenager about why they think it is smart for them to wait, and let them come up with their own reasons.
Being told why you should or shouldn’t do something does have power and effectiveness, but creating your own reasons is more powerful. So, talk with your teen and see where their thoughts are and have an open discussion about what age is the best to start dating.
How to Organize a Date?
Obviously, parents are not organizing every date their teen is going on, but you can help your teen navigate the planning. From the quote above, you know that a date needs to have a planned activity and it involves one couple or more going on the date.
Some parents are not comfortable with their teen going on dates with one person, and others are. You as the parent can create your own rules about that. You can let your teen go on single dates as long as you know the plan and the person.
You can let them go on a single date if there are no other couples to join them and if you are comfortable with the plan and person. You can require them to go on double dates until they have been in the dating game for a year and then they can decide if dates are single or double. There are many ways to navigate this, but one important factor is trust.
Trust your teen to make smart decisions. You have taught them well, and it is time to let them experience things without your supervision. You do not always have to trust your teenager. If your teen does something very wrong that they know is against what you have taught them, then you have every right to take your trust away. Trust is earned, and your teen will have to clean up their behavior and actions to earn your trust back. But, they need your trust to start this journey.
Before they go out, have your teen explain to you the date idea. Are they going out for food? Are they watching a movie? Are they going mini-golfing? There are plenty of ideas they can use, and they should let you know the plan. Letting you know the plan is not necessarily asking for your approval, but it can be them letting you know and keeping you in the loop.
You don’t want them to start lying to you about plans in fear you will disapprove, instead, if a plan is bad then offer suggestions to mend their plan, try not to react poorly, or give them entirely new ideas. This is a good practice for them to learn how to become adults, so letting them figure out plans, helping them fix holes in their plan, and letting them take charge is important for them to feel trusted and more like an adult.
Overall, teach your teen how to organize a date and give them ideas. When they come up to you with a plan look for the holes and ask them what they are going to do about the holes. They will help them notice the faults in their plan and they can come up with solutions on their own. It is hard but letting them practice being adults is one of the most important aspects of dating.
Who Should they Date?
Some parents want their teens to only date other Latter-Day Saint teens, whereas other parents are comfortable with non-Latter-Day Saint teens. So, come up with your own rule, but remember that there are good people outside the church who are going to give your teen a nice experience as well.
Your teenager should also inform you about who is going on the date. Maybe someone asked them out or they asked another person. Who is the person? How does your teen know them? Do you know their parents? Have you met the person they want to go on a date with?
Depending on your relationship and the level of trust you have with your teen, you may be comfortable with them going on a date with someone you don’t know. There comes a point where you have raised your teen to be a good person, so trust their decision-making.
Do’s & Dont’s
There are rules and guidelines that youth can follow when dating that are not explicitly stated by parents. Instead, these are general do’s and don’t that parents may have talked about, or they are well known and don’t need to be stated. There is an article written by David Dickson and David A. Edwards that talks about what is right and wrong to do on a date. (Source)
The article talks about what to do and what not to do before the date and on the date. It can be good to talk with your teenager about these topics so that they know how they should dress, act, and talk on a date with someone.
Begining to date is hard because youth are trying to figure things out and they want to have fun and avoid awkwardness. So, talking about dating expectations could help them, parents should not make the conversation sound like a lecture thought. It should be an open conversation that helps prep your teen for success.
The article talks about waiting until 16 to date, as it says in the For the Strength of Youth, and it goes on to who teens should look to for dating advice. Teens should steer away from social media influencers and look to parents, church leaders, and church handbooks for advice and information on dating.
Now, if someone posted a video on YouTube about cheap and fun date ideas that is one thing, but looking to someone outside church standards for how to dress, act, talk, and be on a date can lead to confusion and can conflict with the church’s standards.
The article says that asking someone out does not have to be elaborate and big. In high school, there are promposals that are more elaborate for asking someone to the big dance, but not every date needs that. Simply going up to the person, sparking a conversation, and asking them out in a respectful manner is great.
So if your teen does not know how to ask someone they like out, tell them that simply asking them is the best way. And, if you as parents have some funny dating stories of your own, sharing some experiences when you asked someone out or when someone asked you out could be perfect to add to the conversation.
You should talk to your teen about what is appropriate to wear on a date. They don’t need to be in church clothes, but someone comfortable and nice-looking is the goal. And, your teen should know that there are different ways to dress according to the date activity. Some people go on a hike and that requires a different outfit than a movie date. So let your teen know that they should follow the dressing and grooming standards the church has for them. (Source)
If they haven’t learned yet, then teach your teen about etiquette. Teach them that on a date, there are things that are appropriate and not appropriate to do. Being on your phone, taking over the conversation, not asking questions, being messy, being late to pick up the date, and more are all things to not do on a date. As parents you know about dating, you have dating and found each other! So, use your experience and guide your teen on how to act on a date. (Source)
What is the Goal?
For teenagers, it may seem like there is no purpose to dating. But, dating at the right time and in the right way has many benefits. Some teens feel unworthy or awkward when going on a date so they want to avoid that. Or, maybe they are more shy and reserved and do not like the idea of going on a date.
If your teen is like this, then talk with them about why dating is good. It is not just teenagers doing stupid things like how coming of age movies go, but really it is a safe and fun space to make friends and practice socializing.
Teenage years are full of trial and error, and they are all about preparing for adulthood. Latter-Day Saint teens are preparing to go to college, go on missions, enter the temple, and begin the next stage of their lives. They are going to meet their future spouse and get married, and they are going to make friends and other close relationships.
Dating helps prepare them for these things. Dating is obviously a path that leads to a future husband or wife, but it also helps people learn how to interact with others. (Source)
In the church, There have been changes that help youth to achieve great things at a younger age. The teens today are strong and can go on missions at 18 and 19. They can be worthy to enter the temple that young too, and women are not expected to go through the temple because they are going on a mission or because they are getting married. They don’t have to wait, they can go through the temple for their own personal progression to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
You can think back to the start of Covid and remember how all the missionaries serving all around the world were still able to spread the message of the gospel. Youth today are a focus for President Nelson, and they are stronger than adults and parents realize at times.
President Nelson focuses the Gathering of Israel on the youth because they are spiritually strong and they are capable of great things. Dating is a great first step to gaining skills needed for missions and the ultimate mission in life; marriage.