A guy in college handled an uncomfortable dating situation in a very unique way for a twenty-one year old.  He invited a gal to a date party.  She knew it was a date party, however, when she arrived at the fraternity house, she disappeared and he was left talking to other guys and their dates.  After a while, music playing and his date was no where to be seen or danced with,  so he set out to look for her.  She was doing nothing inappropriate, just talking with others, yet MIA from her date.  He got her coat, and his and when he found her he said something like, “ I thought we’d go to your place.”  They walked from his fraternity to her dorm and when they got to the check-in at the door where there was an attendant, he said to her, something like, “You didn’t seem interested in being with me, so I thought I’d take you back to your place, so I could go bartend for my friends.”  He walked back, told his friends what had happened, he took his turn behind the bar so his friends could enjoy the evening, since he was now without a date.  “Nick” became legend for the rest of his time until he graduated and friends still remind him of his “I’m not putting up with disrespectful behavior”  attitude.  Our kids have heard the story many times over the years.  The young lady in the story did not know how to behave on a date, was my observation.  When invited on a date, you stay with your date.  If you are uncomfortable or in danger, you leave or call someone to pick you up.  Like anything else in life, kids need to be taught how to date and how to behave on a date, both boys and girls.  The same would have been true in the above story with “Nick”,  if the roles had been reversed.

    There is etiquette to be taught to teenagers and there is safety to be taught as well.  If these topics are uncomfortable to talk to your kids about, then maybe there are too young to date.  My observations on dating currently, tell me that kids are allowed to date too young and therefore parents are putting them in uncomfortable situations before they are mature enough to handle them.  What is the rush, I wonder?  For young teenagers to be in group situations with boys and girls is appropriate because it gives them the comfort of being in “non-one on one setting” and takes the pressure off.  They are most likely to be better behaved in a group also.  In addition, if kids pair off and have a steady boyfriend/girlfriend early on, they miss out on developing same sex friendships that could last a life time.  They have the rest of their life to be acquainted with the other sex.  In most cases, girls are more mature than boys, expect more emotionally in a relationship and it ends up being uncomfortable for everyone.  I knew a girl and guy in high school who dated most of high school, when it came time for college, her parents insisted on a separate college for her on the other side of the state from her boyfriend.  While in college she did study abroad and after college they got married. They each had time to develop friendships that have lasted into their adult lives and were both able to grow up emotionally.  It must have been meant to be.  Setting ground rules such as one date a week or night to hang out with someone they are dating is enough and gives time for other activities and friendships.

    Safety is also a topic parents should discuss with their teenagers.  For both boys and girls, it is best NOT to be in an uncomfortable situation.  Many times, these situations aren’t planned.  Someone takes out alcohol or drugs and your child is unaware that was going to happen.  Discuss how you would want them to handle it.   Should they go to the restroom and text you to pick them up, or is there a code word you all have discussed that if they text  it to you or call, you know what it means and what the plan involves.  If you don’t already have a tracking AP on your kids phones consider it.  There are no measures too drastic when it comes to protecting your child. When it comes to a child’s physicality,  it is equally alarming for a girl to be harmed as it is for a boy to be wrongly accused of something.  Parents of both boys and girls should be equally concerned.  For a girl to be physically harmed or abused could leave emotional scars for a life time and equally a boy wrongly accused of causing harm to a girl could affect his future in terms of his reputation, higher education and employment.  Although uncomfortable and possibly something you may not want to talk about, it is important that your child understands the consequences of being an offender or one who wrongly accuses. However, if something clearly wrong happens speaking up is imperative and the sooner the better.

    Bottom line on this topic is, to just try as much as possible for your child NOT to be in a bad situation.  Always be the parent who asks if there is adult supervision.  YOU are the parent and kids have parents to protect them.  Make sure you know who your kids are getting into a vehicle with.  I had a tennis instructor call me once to warn me about an older young man who had just gotten his license and he told me that he would recommend that I not let my son get into a car with him.  I appreciated the phone call and always made other arrangements for our son’s transportation.  When the other child seemed to me more mature and responsible a couple of years later, we had no problem with the young man occasionally being the driver.  Be creative with your substitution tactics as in, “I’ll be going that way anyway, it’s no problem to pick you up,” or “have the kids over to our house after the dance,” that way, you know who is coming and going, you know what drinks and food are being served and you know if anyone is bringing anything in terms of drugs or alcohol.  To order a few pizzas and a few cases of soft drinks is money well spent.  YOU get to determine what time the gatherings ends and I never minded driving kids home, knowing that they would get home safely and deposited to their own home, not backing out of the driveway until I saw them enter their own home and close the door behind them.

    Dances and social events are good learning experiences for kids.  The topic of attire comes up.  What is the dress for the occasion or dress code.  Maybe a suit for a young man is not required, but to wear a shirt and tie and dress shoes with dress slack give a parent  an opportunity to discuss the etiquette of dressing for the circumstances.  Parents of a teenage boy can explain that it is important to dress appropriately to respect their date because a girl will mostly likely look forward to the process of buying or borrowing a dress, she will take time to get ready and her date would not want to show up in ripped up jeans, a t-shirt and worn out sneakers.  Likewise, a parent of a teenage girl should discuss dressing appropriately as well.  Explain that the clothes you wear can send a message.  A dress or skirt at an appropriate length is always something to consider.  An outfit that exposes too much, may send a message that is not only unacceptable but may not allow one entry into the event.  That would be embarrassing.  A dress that causes a girl to be concerned with during the evening may not allow her to enjoy the evening if she is frequently pulling her top up or closed or constantly pulling a dress length down to cover her bottom.  Uncomfortable shoes can be a problem as too.  Work these issues out the weekend before so that they are not something to be concerned with the day of the event.  In terms of cost, these events should not be an occasion to break the bank.  Set the budget and stick with it.  Have the girls meet up at a friends’ house and have the mom’s do hair make-up and mani-pedis.  Teach your daughters to either shop sales or trade dresses with friends.  Here’s where the group mentality helps out.  Talk to the other parents of your child’s friends early on and devise a plan of attack.  Communicate with one another as to what’s going again, making plans in advance and letting the kids know what is acceptable and what you all will allow. Remember, your kids’ safety and well being is the most important and a community of likeminded families can be a very comforting for both kids and adults, and it could be a whole lot of fun too.

    Even though some of these topics are very serious subject matters and your child may never be in a situation when their security or well being is in danger or compromised, they are much better to be prepared.  To be on the offense rather than defense is preferred and as the saying goes, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” which may just lead to many Great Days.