AS parents we want what's best for our children, so naturally we want them to find an ideal partner… when they are adults, of course. Even the most open and liberal parents will therefore be at least a bit apprehensive when they discover that their teens, or even pre-teens, are dating.
Life coach and author of parenting self-help book Mayhem, Mirth and Mastery: Me moirs of Single Parenting, Caleen Diedrick, says it's only natural for children to become attracted to other people as they experience puberty, and it is important that parents communicate with them about their feelings.
“The thing that we need to recognise as parents is that when children become teenagers they are going to want to interact with members of the opposite sex,” she says. “This is a natural part of their development. If it is that we fostered a space where the children felt safe enough to come and talk to us about it, then we wouldn't need to police to the extent that we are now policing. Most of us, because we have not created that relationship with our children, end up having to become detectives to find out what is happening and who they are speaking with.”
These parents share how they discovered that their children were dating, and how they took the news:
Terry, 45, geriatric nurse:
My daughter was 16 and I noticed that she was always giggling with her phone, so I sweet her up and asked her who was her friend and when I was going to meet him. She denied it for a while but one day she eventually told me his name and that he was a boy at school and she showed me his picture. He looked like a decent enough boy. I told her to be careful and not rush into anything, but deep down I trusted her to make good decisions. By the time I asked her about him a few weeks later they had broken up and she was dating a different one.
Samuel, 50, plumber:
My neighbour showed me a picture of her son and my daughter together, and that is how I knew that she was dating. She was about 17 at the time and it looked like everybody except me knew about it. When I asked her why she never told me she laughed and said they were talking from they were 14 but I never asked, so she never said anything.
Micha, 35, nail technician:
All of a sudden my son started turning into one piece of sweet boy and couldn't go to school unless his uniform looked perfect and his face was washed 50 times. Then one day he asked me if I wanted to meet my daughter-in-law. I nearly fainted. He was 14. I let him know that he could have his little friends but I said he was too young and I was not ready for anybody to call me grandma.
Steph, 38, sales representative:
My daughter never told me about anybody she dated, and she is 19 now. But I know the things I was up to at her age, so I always gave her advice without her asking for it. She just started university and to my surprise she brought home a 'friend' for Christmas. It looks like she feels better telling me now that she isn't under my roof, so I can't put her out.
Dimitri, 43, driver:
I don't know when my son started dating, but I know when my condoms started going missing. He was 17. I thought about it for a while but then I realised there was nothing I could do to stop him at that point and at least he was being careful, so I just did the best I could. I always made sure condoms were in the drawer.