Parents and dating

Is it wrong to date if I'm not really allowed to?

Sometimes parents and dating just don’t mix.

Most teens want their parents to approve of their dating choices,
but that doesn’t always happen.

Click on the scenario that best describes your family:

"My parents don’t want me to date"

If you want to date, but your parents won’t let you, you are in a difficult position. Before you start sneaking off behind your parents’ backs (which will just make them trust you less), try to figure out if they are open to discussing it. If they are, find out why they don’t like the idea of you dating. Is it because they are worried about your safety? Are they concerned you’ll forget about school?

Explore compromises that will make them feel more comfortable, such as going on group dates instead of one-on-one dates, being home at a certain time, or only going on dates with boys or girls they’ve met.

Often, parents are thinking of your safety and well-being. Showing your parents that you are taking their concerns seriously shows maturity, which may help them understand why you feel you are ready to date.

"I can’t talk to my parents about dating"

Talking is a great start, but doesn’t guarantee the solution you were hoping for. That complicates things for you, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Before you give up on your parents, try the following:

  • Choose another adult. Talking to someone who is older, and has perspective on your parents’ position on dating can be helpful. Is there an older relative, sibling, or someone else who can help you understand where your parents are coming from, and maybe even help you talk to your parents?
  • Make lists. What are the things you’d like to say to your parents? What rules do you wish they would change? Try making another list of your parents’ concerns. What are some ways you might approach these concerns?
  • Get help. A Kids Help Phone counsellor or another trusted adult may be able to help you work out an approach to dating that will help your parents to feel more comfortable. Always try to make sure you go to the right person for advice—someone who you trust and who you think will give you accurate information.

Dating is just not an option in my family

Many families have expectations that teenagers won’t date or get into relationships until they are a certain age, or ready to get married. The reasons for this may be religious, cultural, or personal. For these families, the issue of dating just isn’t up for negotiation. While some teens are happy not to date while they are in high school, others feel stressed or upset because they would like to date, but are not allowed to.

If you feel you are ready to date but can’t, it’s common to feel frustrated or angry. The important thing is to know that your feelings are OK, and that even if there’s no easy way of changing your situation you can make the best of it for now.

Try to think of realistic solutions. For example, you may want to try negotiating with your parents so that you can flirt or have more friends instead of dating: they may not let you go on a date, but will they let you go to a dance in a group if an adult is there? If this sort of negotiation doesn’t work, you may need to accept your parents’ rules, at least for the time being. In this case, it might help to think of ways to make your teen years as full and happy as possible without dating. Check out our tips on living single, and remember: you can always contact Kids Help Phone and reach a counsellor by phone at 1-800-668-6868
or when Live Chat is available.

My parents hate my boyfriend/girlfriend

It’s hard knowing that your parents don’t like the person you’re dating. But before you get too upset with them, do your best to figure out what your parents’ concerns are. There are lots of reasons parents might disapprove of the person their kid is dating.

Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Are your parents expressing concerns about your safety? Your parents might not like the way your boyfriend or girlfriend treats you. Is it possible they’re on to something? How can you make sure your relationship is safe and healthy?
  • Are your parents upset that you’re growing up? If your parents don’t like your boyfriend or girlfriend because “no one’s good enough for their baby,” they may just be having trouble adjusting to you growing up. How can you help your parents see that you are mature, but still love them and want their support?
  • Do your parents not like your boyfriend or girlfriend because of their race, class, sexual orientation, or religion? Some parents have negative feelings about who their kids date because they have biased, distorted, or discriminatory attitudes about certain “types” of people. If this is the case in your family, click here for our tips on dating discrimination.

My parents are worried about pregnancy or STIs.

If you’re sexually active, you run the risk of pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If your parents are concerned about these risks, it might help to keep in mind that they are trying to keep you safe and healthy. Do you think your parents would be open to a conversation about sex? If so, an honest discussion may help ease some of your parents’ worries. Here are some tips:

  • Tell them that you understand why they’re concerned, and that you want to be safe.
  • Show them you are well informed about safer sex. If you’ve visited your doctor or a sexual health clinic like Planned Parenthood for information on safer sex, you can tell them about what you learned or show them the pamphlets from your visit. And don’t forget to practice what you preach - use protection every time you have sex!
  • If you’re not sexually active, say so! Nothing will make your parents feel better than knowing that you aren’t going to have sex until you’re ready.

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Last reviewed September 2013 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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