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Parenting Tips for Problematic Dating Choices

I saw a poster titled “Twenty Tips for a Successful Life.” The top one was to “marry the right person.” I thought that number one should be loving God, but after that, yeah, marry the right person is critical. It shapes the rest of your life. Two become one. I’ve seen so many lives turn from promising to chaos because of who they married. So I’ve always been, well, let’s just say a little over the top concerned with who my kids choose to date.

I think it’s best if I don’t use names here, but it all started when one of my sons began dating a girl. It’s not who I imagined my son with, but I decided to be open-minded.....for a bit.

It didn’t take long before he became obsessed with his phone……constantly texting her. I guess that’s normal new relationship behavior for his generation. If you're a parent I'm sure you're familiar with this.

My son no longer was his happy and carefree self. He was obsessed with his phone and clearly stressed, all the time. His grades declined. He stopped hanging out with friends.

He eventually talked to me a little about his concerns and it became clear that this young girl had some serious mental and emotional issues. He kept thinking he could help her. We've all probably been in situations where we want desperately to help someone, but eventually realize that we aren't equipped to do so. Help is needed. Knowing when help is needed is an important life lesson.

The longer the relationship continued, the more controlling she became.

Through all of this, I had to walk that fine balance between counseling him and providing advice but not alienating him. If I was too negative, he’d just stop telling me what was happening. This girl was making serious threats. She was cutting herself but her parents didn’t know. She threatened to kill herself if my son broke up with her. Yeah, this wasn’t just the normal situation of not liking who your son or daughter is dating. This was serious.

I talked to his girlfriend directly and to her mom. I recommended a counselor. Her mom was convinced that nothing was wrong with her. Threatening to kill herself was just “normal teenage stuff.” Geez. I informed her school counselor. I prayed. I worried. The relationship continued. What if he married her? Of course this is where my mind, as a mom, would go even though they were only 15! I'm an expert worrier.

I eventually sent my son to a counselor. If his girlfriend wouldn't go to a counselor, maybe he could go and get advice on how to handle the situation. It worked. It was a turning point. She helped my son understand that he was not equipped to handle this young girl’s problems. It's curious how you can tell your child something over and over, but when someone else says the same thing, they listen. Anyhow......

He thankfully broke up with her. She made it very hard. She got the help she needed. Everything turned out alright. We were lucky. Sometimes things go sideways with your kids just because of a single friendship.

Here are the lessons I learned through all of this:

  • My children have to learn life lessons on their own. No lecture would have had the same impact as experiencing it. If I had somehow been able to force him to break up with her, he never would have learned the lessons he needed to learn. He just would have been mad at me. Letting your kids learn the hard way is one of the hardest parts of parenting.

  • Sometimes your kids need to hear from another respected adult besides you. Counselors can be helpful.

  • This is a hard one, but try to ask questions and listen rather than lecture. Your kids have to know they can trust you and talk to you. Give clear and unconditional love.

  • When you think your efforts aren’t helping, you may be wrong. They hear you, even though it doesn’t seem that way. Keep trying. Be patient.

  • When they aren’t dating someone – that’s a great time to talk about how to choose someone to date. That’s the time to have them write down the characteristics of the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Prayer helps.

  • Parenting is hard. I keep learning this over and over again.


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