You’re at the food court in the mall, your 14-year-old son is with you. You give your order. When you turn to face your son you realize he is no longer next to you. For a moment you are frantic. You know he is old enough to handle himself, but it is your natural maternal instinct kicking in. You let out a sigh of relief when with a quick scan of the area you see him seated at a table already -- but, wait, who are those four girls? They look a bit old for him especially since one of them seems to have car keys in her hand!
You stroll over just as they are dispersing, but you do catch your son closing his cell phone, clearly he has collected some numbers.
“Who were those girls?”, you say as calmly as you can muster.
“I don’t know, just some girls,” he replies.
“You mean you don’t know them?’
Your heart sinks a little. This is not the first time something like this has happened. In fact come to think of it, you would guess your son’s “little black book” has more numbers than Don Juan! It is in that moment you realize your son is a pick-up artist!
Or, perhaps it is your daughter about whom you worry. Does she have a new “boyfriend” each week? Does she often appear like she is engaging in a round of speed dating when you hear her answer call after call on her phone? Should you worry? Should you be concerned? You know she is a “good girl.” She gets good grades, has great friends and is involved in several activities, but boy, is she a flirt!
Your teens are popular with the opposite sex. Not necessarily a bad thing. How do you, however, ensure that their pick-ups don’t result in serial “hook-up”( and I know you know what I mean!)?
Here are some thoughts:
1.) Talk with your teens. It is always best to put your concerns on the table. Avoid embarassing or shaming as they are sure to shut down. Tread lightly but honestly.
2.) Model respect and they will practice it. In other words, remember you are their best teacher. Avoid joking around in front of them about the opposite sex. Treat you spouse or significant other with respect. Take disagreements to a private place.
3.) Monitor what your teens see and hear in the media. Watch with them. Take opportunities to know about the type of exposure your teens are getting. What for example, is his favorite television show or movie? Engage your teen in interactive discussions about what they are seeing and hearing, especially if you are worried that the messages are dicey or inappropriate.
4.) A set of good house rules can ensure safety & respect. If you have firm rules and boundaries you are already one step ahead of the game. Make an effort to get to know their friends and dating partners. When you demonstrate interest you send the message that you are not only monitoring, but that you care.
5.) Remember-- so often talk is just that, talk. In other words, just because your teen is a big flirt or collecting loads of phone numbers does not mean that she/he is dating or even interacting with all these people. Your teen may just be honing his skills for the future. It can be a real confidence booster to be so popular with the opposite sex, especially for early teens just getting through the awkward stage of puberty.
How do you handle your Casanova or Betty Boop?