When your teen starts to date, it can be a frantic, funny, full-circle experience for you. You may feel nervous or excited for her—as you remember (or try to forget) your own dating experiences. Or you may be feeling petrified that you're growing old and wondering where the time went!
If you're feeling all these emotions, just imagine what your kid is going through.
But helping your kid negotiate dating may not be up to you. We can't guarantee your son or daughter is going to ask for your advice on how to ask out the hottie from science class. But if it happens, you'll want to be prepared with some good, sound advice. The following information will arm you in case you can't remember when you asked out your own hottie ... or in case you never got the chance (or nerve) to do it.
You might want to advise your teen to:
Get to know the other person as a friend first. It's a lot easier to date someone you already have something in common with—like shared interests and values.
Have some ideas for what you might like to do. Is there a new movie you'd like to see when it opens on Friday? A school play? A concert? A restaurant you want to check out? You don't have to make firm plans—you want to be open to your date's ideas, too. But having something in mind avoids this type of non-conversation: "So, you want to do something?" "Like what?" "Oh, you know—something." "Something like what?" "I dunno. Just something."
Ask in person or over the phone. Start by talking about ordinary things—your day, your friends, school, whatever. Then relax and take a deep breath. Smile even if you're on the phone; you'll sound more confident. Then pop the question. Use your own words, as long as the phrase "Will you go out with me?" is somewhere in there. Don't ask in an email. You want this to be a real conversation.
Describe what you'd like to do together. Example: "There's a new comedy starting on Friday. It'll be at the MegaTheater. We could go to the 7:30 show and get a bite to eat after. How does that sound to you?"
Wait for an answer. Listen. Don't interrupt.
If the answer is yes, great. You've got a date. Now nail down the details. Will you meet there? Who will pay for the movie and food? Since you're asking, you might want to pay, if you can afford it. Or, since you're already friends (see #1 above), you might say, "Great! I'll buy the tickets, and maybe you can cover the food?"
If the answer is no, don't hang up or walk away. Don't argue, and don't try to change the person's mind. After all, you're friends (see #1 above). Respect your friend's decision. You might say, "OK, I'm disappointed, but if you don't want to, that's how it is. So, where do we go from here? Still friends?" Even if you're crushed, tell yourself that there is someone out there for you—just not this particular person, or not this particular person right now. Don't let the "no" influence how you feel about yourself.
© Pamela Espeland 2003