Dating Advice for My 13-Year-Old Daughter
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A letter about dating, falling in love, and holding out for the right guy
Having conversations with your preteen daughter about dating, kissing, and even sex isn’t unusual or premature these days. I think we have the media, along with the music industry, TV shows that promote romantic relationships for preteens, and, of course, social media to thank for kids starting their love lives so much earlier than we did when we were kids. I mean how old were Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez when they started dating?
According to the nonprofit research organization Child Trends, a survey revealed that 20% of ninth-grade students reported they were sexually active. That is one in five kids! And guess how old a high school freshman is? Around 14!
But how do you talk to your daughter, who is embarrassed by everything and doesn’t really want to open up to her very uncool mom, about boys, kissing, relationships, and sex?
Be up front and blunt. In other words, tell the truth, tell it like it is, and for God’s sake, share with her the mistakes you’ve made in the past when it comes to romantic relationships. It is this kind of honesty and vulnerability that fosters a deep trust and connection between a mom and daughter.
I thought it might be helpful to share a letter I plan to give to my daughter on the subject when the time is right.
Dear Sweet, Kind, Beautiful Daughter,
I am beyond proud of the beautiful woman I see in front of me. Your beauty, which goes far beyond your physical appearance, is in your kind, thoughtful, caring nature; your witty and silly sense of humor; your street-smart intuition; and the love that radiates around your youthful, pretty face.
I want to share some of my thoughts with you about boys and kissing and falling in love and sex. I know it’s really, really hard for you to talk to me or to anyone about this kind of stuff. What’s even more difficult is that you probably have countless questions in your head that you are too embarrassed to ask.
So, first I want to emphasize how much I am here for you, ready and willing to offer you the best answers I can to your questions and to converse about any topic about which you are curious or want to learn more.
Let me stress that no topic is inappropriate or unimportant or too personal to discuss. I will never judge you, I will never laugh at you, and I will never make sarcastic remarks. Instead, I will offer you my most honest answers and thoughts, with compassion and empathy, having been there myself a long time ago.
At age 50, this divorced mom has made plenty of mistakes when it comes to men and relationships. There are so many things I wish I could take back, and many actions and words said that I regret. There are people I wish I could apologize to, people who hurt me, and situations I wish I would have handled differently, better.
But, you can’t go back in time, you can only learn from your mistakes and do better next time. I also want to mention that I did a lot of things right concerning men and relationships. There were tough breakups that proved, in time, to be the right thing; there were people I loved, and even though it ended, I wouldn’t trade the time spent with them for anything. And there were friendships made that came from dating that are valuable and that mean so much to me. I truly believe that in dating and relationships, there is some kind of gift that comes with every experience.
Here are some words of wisdom I want to offer you, so that you might benefit from both my mistakes and my wisdom:
Perhaps the biggest factor in falling in love and being happy in a romantic relationship is loving who you are, being proud of yourself and what you do in life, and feeling like your life has meaning that goes beyond your spouse. Is it a job, a hobby, faith, art, music, or friendships that make your heart soar and give your life meaning? Whatever it is, find it, then do it. It takes time, but when you do, you will realize self-love because you will be living your authentic life.
Dating will sometimes feel like a job. It will be frustrating and depressing at times, but then you will have a really fun time with someone and it will rejuvenate you and give you hope that love is out there and that you will meet him. Be careful. Don’t ever drive with a date if he has been drinking. Don’t ask a date you just met into your apartment for a drink at the end of the night. Don’t let a date you met online drive you home or know where you live until you feel OK with it. And please use a condom every single time you have sex with someone until you both have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and there is a mutual agreement that you are exclusive.
I repeat: please use a condom every single time you have sex with someone until you both have been tested for STDs and there is a mutual agreement that you are exclusive. Sex with the right person is wonderful and exciting and beautiful, and it connects two people in a very special way. But sex with the wrong person can leave you feeling regretful, empty, used, and bad about yourself. Be careful in your decision making when it comes to whom you sleep with.
On high standards
Always remember what an amazing person you are and that you don’t have to settle. What I mean by that is no relationship is perfect, but when you start counting flaws and that number gets high, or when there is a deal breaker—such as physical or mental abuse, alcoholism, cheating, or another addiction, always remember that you have the option of getting out of the relationship. It might be scary or very sad to leave a comfortable relationship, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision. You deserve to be with someone whose qualities go above and beyond your expectations and who treats you beyond well. Don’t rationalize and have the mentality of “I can’t do better” because, first of all, yes, you can. And second, even if you couldn’t, wouldn’t you rather be alone than with someone and unhappy?
On trusting your gut
The gut never lies. Ever. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. If he doesn’t feel like the one, he’s not. If the wedding invites are already out and you don’t want to go through with it, don’t. If you think he might be cheating, he is. If you think he might have a drinking problem, he does. Don’t let him tell you you’re a drama queen. You’re not. Your gut is never wrong. Ever.
On getting your heart broken
This will happen. It is a certainty in love and relationships. And it will be so painful you won’t think you can go on. But you will! Lean on your family and friends to get through it. And then someday you’ll meet someone else and you will be so happy things worked out the way they did. And then that whole cycle might happen again!
On holding out for true love
Just because all your friends are getting married doesn’t mean you have to get married, too. Look for the right qualities. Good looks, someone who is fun, and great sex are all good, but the qualities that matter most are based on these questions: Is he my best friend? Will he be there for me when I need him most? Is he a good, ethical person? Does he make me laugh? Do I trust him? How does he handle stress? Would he be a good dad? Does he look at me like he will never let me go? Do we have a lot in common? Do we want the same future? True love is someone who is your best friend and makes your heart stop when he walks in a room—even after a few years. Someone you respect a great deal. Someone you would take care of in sickness. Someone who inspires you. Wait for him. You’ll be glad you did.
On faith and hope
Love and relationships can get very tiring, and there will be times in your life when you feel hopeless. Don’t ever lose hope when it comes to love. People fall in love every minute in this world, and it’s usually when they don’t expect it.
Live well and love well. I love you, and I’ll always be here for you.
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