The time has arrived. My teen daughter has a boyfriend. The clue was when her phone was suddenly blocked by Tesco Mobile. A 'first offence' they called it. Despite being on a very generous tariff, the bill for one month was six times more than normal. The boy 'friend' she'd been talking about so much lately was clearly something more. I looked at the online bill detail, and his number was all over the page - hundreds of times.
We sorted the phone issue and then it was time for a chat. Only just a teenager, she was way younger than me when I had my first boyfriend. I hadn't expected to have to deal with this issue quite so soon. I'm proud of the way she's turned out so far, and I do trust her. So we agreed about some rules and respect issues and so far, so good.
For parents in similar situations, here are a few of tips that helped me:
1. Get a capped tariff for your teenager's phone. This blocks them from going over their limit and teaches them to be careful with their allowance.
2. Give your teenager some personal freedom but make sure they know there are boundaries and what they are. I, personally, don't allow them to 'hang out' in the bedroom but do allow them to use one of the rooms downstairs to watch TV/listen to music, etc.
3. Show a little bit of interest in 'the boyfriend' so you know a bit about them, but not too much or you could scare a nice one away or you could be seen to be overbearing and nosy.
4. Negotiate removing the phone and laptop at bedtimes during school term time. The temptation to text at 2:00am is too great. In return, promise they can keep their phone overnight during holidays.
5. Have 'that' talk - if you haven't already. By now they will already know about the birds and the bees from school talk and sex ed classes. But they need to know that YOU are aware that they know, and that you are fully aware of what can happen at parties and the back row of the cinema. If you're a hands on parent then there's no harm in quoting the law about underage sex and promising to report any illegal activity to the police. It sounds harsh, but I mentioned it in a friendly but firm way and as far as I know - and how can you always know? - all is well so far. If you're a bit more liberal than me, then make sure they know where they can get protection like condoms, or buy some for them.
6. If the relationship lasts more than a few weeks, invite the boyfriend over - for tea or lunch at the weekend. It gives you a chance to see what he's like - how he treats your daughter, his manners, and do you have any concerns from a first impression? If he's a decent chap he'll like the idea of meeting you, too.
7. Ensure that they know school and homework must come first. It's perfectly reasonable to withdraw the agreement of seeing her boyfriend if schoolwork suffers. Point out that real relationships have to juggle work and chores too.
There's no doubting that this it's a scary time for parents, and the hardest thing seems to be trying to 'be cool' about it all, when inside you're really a nervous wreck! Good luck!