When your kid gets asked out on a date (for the first time, the second time—forever!) it can be both exciting and excruciating. And that's just how you're feeling! Answering the "will you go out with me" question can take some finessing for even the most mature adults. So whether they ask for it directly or not, your kids can use a little advice and insight on how to handle what happens next—including how to say "yes," how to say "no" or even how to say, "Not yet; ask again later."
Tell your teen: "You can say yes if ..."
You like the person who's asking you out, and you already know each other as friends.
The person has a plan for the date, and you like the plan. Or you have another suggestion—a comedy instead of an action movie, for example—and the person is willing to do that instead.
You really mean "yes."
Remind your teens that they don't have to say yes. And they shouldn't say yes if they don't mean it, or they sort of mean it, or they feel like they might back out later if something better comes along—or even if they just need to think about it, or need to talk it over with you first.
Tell your teen: "You can say 'maybe' if ..."
You want to talk with your friends first and get their opinion. (Although this is your date, and your opinion matters most.)
You're waiting for someone else to ask you out.
You're not sure if you want to go out with the person.
You need time to think about it.
You want to know the person better before you go out.
In any case, don't let your teen leave the person hanging. Instead, make sure the "asker" gets a specific time or date for a decision. Your kid might say, "I have to ask my parents if it's OK. I'll get back to you tomorrow." Or, "Thanks for asking. This is a surprise to me. Can I think about it for a day or two?" But make sure that your son or daughter at least responds.
Tell your teen: "You can say no if ..."
You're not allowed to date yet. ("I'm sorry, but my parents won't let me start dating until next year.")
You're hoping someone else will ask you out. ("I'm sorry, but I already have plans for Friday night. Thanks for asking.")
You already have plans for that day. ("I'm really sorry! I wish I could go, but Aimee is having an overnight on Friday. Could we do it some other time?")
You don't want to go out with the person. (Be gentle: "Thank you for asking, but I'd really rather just stay friends," or, "Thank you for asking, but there's someone else I'm interested in," or, "Thanks, but no thanks. I just don't see us going out together. I'm sorry, but that's how I feel.")
It can be a very tough conversation at times, and it's more complicated than just "honesty is the best policy," but teaching your teen how to be diplomatic as well as honest will be a valuable life-lesson for years to come.
© Pamela Espeland 2003