Your daughter is reaching that time where she may be interested in dating, starting a relationship, or curious about sex. She’s becoming more independent, and making important decisions on her own. You’ve noticed that she’s talking on the phone more, she’s mentioning a wider group of friends than she had before, she’s casually saying how her best friend went and ‘hung out’ with that person she had a crush on last week, and maybe even worrying about her appearance or what she is wearing more than she usually does…She might be interested in someone.
This can be a difficult topic to address, and it can be hard to let go, but it is important to discuss relationships and dating in an open, honest, and trusting environment, and one in which your daughter also feels safe and respected, and able to express her opinions too. Resist the urge to just say ‘no!’ In an open discussion you can not only discuss family values, as well as any rules like curfews or age restrictions, but open up a safe space for dialogue, where your daughter can come to you with any issues or problems, whether it’s about her feelings, peer pressure, self-esteem, or questions about sexual health and safety. This also means you’re all on the same page in regards to guidelines and expectations. There are no set rules or right answers for these types of situations- your values as a family, and the dialogue that occurs, will be individual to each situation.
Giving her the chance to express her opinion, even if you don’t ultimately agree, can establish a trusting, open relationship, and allow you to discuss where each of you are coming from. It can also give you a chance to remember that your daughter is growing, discovering who she is, and making decisions about her life. Be honest, be open, and give trust and respect, and you will receive honesty, trust, and respect in return.
A good place to start with these discussions is the Head, Heart, Body decision making tool, from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre website. This can be a useful tool to use together to help figure out what may be the best course of action, and a good tool for your daughter to use to see how she really feels about something- if she is really ready for it.
Head – Ask yourself:
- Why am I doing this?
- Do I agree with what is going on?
- Does this fit with my values?
- How will I feel about this decision tomorrow?
- What will my friends and family think?
- What if they say no/don’t like me?
- What does going on a date or dating mean to me?
- Is there someone I can talk to about this?
- Do I know where to go if I need more information?
- Will the other person feel the same?
- Am I ready to hear “no” if they don’t feel the same?
- Hearing no is not always negative. In fact, ‘rejection’ is now energy that can be used elsewhere, rather than taking up a lot of time/space in our brains.
Heart – Ask yourself:
- Do I feel safe and comfortable with this person?
- Does this feel right to me?
- Do I like this person?
- Can I trust them?
Body– Ask yourself:
- What does my body want to do?
- Do I like what’s happening?
- Am I blushing? Is my heart beating faster? Am I sweating?
- Do I want to be kissed or touched?
- Do I get excited and have butterflies in my stomach?
- Can I not stop smiling?
Working through these questions can help in making decisions about appropriate boundaries and what is right for your family and its values, and what is right for your daughter as she continues to grow. These tools are also something she can use in the future, and be adapted to other types of situations.
The Calgary Sexual Health Centre website has a variety of other tools that may be helpful, including resources about puberty, the stages of child sexual development, and consent, among other topics. The Sexual Health Centre also runs workshops on ‘Talking With Your Kids About Sexuality.’ This is a valuable resource for any questions you may have, for a series of topics that may be a bit awkward to bring up at first. http://www.calgarysexualhealth.ca/sexual-health-info/parent-information/
Overall, there are no right answers, but it is important to provide a safe, welcoming, and open environment, while remembering that your daughter is growing, and also providing realistic, appropriate boundaries. Being open, honest, and trusting is a great way to start figuring out what is right for you as a family