Dating and daughters… it’s a delicate subject, especially between moms and our girls. Just the thought of our daughters being in the game can make us feel like throwing up in our mouth. And just the mention of it to our girls can make them feel like slamming doors in our face because they’re sure they know it all. So it’s a tricky one, this whole relationship thing. Because, as women who have already played the game when we were young, we want to save our daughters from the heartbreak and risks of dating, and they want us to butt the @$&! out. Therein lies the challenge.
As moms, we need to give our girls the knowledge to navigate relationships in a way that respects their boundaries, but also ensures that they have all the tools they need to avoid getting hurt. That’s not exactly easy, but it is doable. Because all it takes is prioritizing the super-important stuff and reinforcing it over and over and over again (with our fingers crossed behind our backs that they’re listening).
See, imparting wisdom is just what we do as moms, because there’s so much we need our daughters to know and remember and do. And even though we wish they’d just let us ride shotgun on every date and be part of every relationship decision, that’s straight up never going to happen. So, we do the next best thing, which is to talk all the talk and give our girls as much of our knowledge as we can before they ever even leave the house. We distill all the important dos and don’ts and basically pass down our own personal field guide for how to survive in the dating world.
Here is the best advice you can give your daughter about dating:
1. First and foremost, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Be authentic to who you are so there’s zero confusion about who you are as a person. Don’t compromise who you are or what you want, no matter what.
2. Set boundaries so you don’t do something you’re not ready to do. For example, don’t have sex until you’re ready. You get to decide the pace that works for you, so don’t ever let anyone pressure you into doing something you’re not ok with.
3. Stay away from drama. No one wants to be caught in the middle of a stressful, dramatic situation, so keep things open and honest.
4. Never give up your independence. Make sure you’re as good being on your own as you are being together.
5. Breakups suck, but they’ll show you what kind of a person you want to be with and the kind you want to avoid. You’re going to get your heart broken, but the pain won’t last forever. And while it may take a while for the hurt to fade, time really does heal most wounds of the heart.
6. Your partner should bring out the best in you. Do you feel like the best version of yourself when you're with them? If yes, they're a keeper.
7. Never compare anyone to your ex, it’s just bad form. Plus, no two people are the same, so comparing is a waste of time.
8. Show gratitude when your partner does something special for you. There are few things that mean more than letting someone know you’re grateful for an act of kindness.
9. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Relationships work in two directions, so if you’re not getting back some version of what you’re putting in, then it’s time to move on.
10. Remember to talk to each other. Relationships are always a work in progress, so you need to keep the lines of communication open. Never assume you know what your partner is thinking. Ask for yourself so there’s no confusion. And don’t play head games! Say what you mean and mean what you say so that everyone’s always on the same page.
11. Avoid talking smack about your partner because it’ll always make its way back to you as the original source and that’s a guaranteed relationship-ender.
12. If you’re breaking up with someone, be kind. There’s no easy way to tell someone they’re not "The One", so just do it thoughtfully.
13. Your mom will always be there for you. Don't be afraid to ask us for help, we have some pretty good advice and experience to pull from.
These tips proved to be the most important bits of dating advice I shared with my own daughters over the years. So use this as a jumping-off point and as a place to start the conversation. Add your own advice and the opinions of the people you trust and then just keep talking. Because the sooner you start the dialogue, the better equipped your girls will be to handle themselves when they’re out on their own. And even though we need to back out of the picture eventually and let them make their own decisions, we can still ensure that all our advice is safely tucked inside their metaphorical wristlet every time they head out the door.
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About the Contributor:
Lisa Sugarman lives north of Boston, MA, where she writes about parenting today’s Gen Z kids in a perfectly imperfect world. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is, and is also the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It—Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today's Gen Z Kids, Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere. Lisa is also a MentorMama on SocialMama. You can connect with Lisa on her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.