Many fathers are simultaneously proud and petrified about the prospect of their son dating. For one, beginning a romantic relationship is an exciting and unpredictable experience that marks an adolescent's march into adulthood. However, teenage romance also brings with it a world of complications and anxieties that affect parents and children alike – heartbreak, depression, stress and potentially (gulp) pregnancy.
However you feel about your son starting to date, sooner or later a budding relationship will be staring you in the face. In many ways, the world of teenage attraction is radically different than when you may have been in high school. The structured evening of dinner, a movie and home by 10 p.m. has given way to a more casual sphere of group activities and afterschool hangouts.
As a result, it can be difficult for you to realize your son has even begun seeing someone until well into the relationship. Teenage boys are private by nature and many will feel awkward about telling their parents about a new girlfriend. If you want to get the truth from your son, you may have to find out for yourself by frequently asking about his social circles.
While you don't want to intrude too much into his personal relationships, staying informed of his friends, girlfriends and activities are part of being a responsible parent. You should also have a discussion with your son about respectful behavior and safe practices (yes, the sex talk) before you sign off on any new girlfriend. Remind him that his actions can have serious, life-altering consequences if he doesn't act appropriately.
Luckily, the recent wave of group dating provides a check for many young relationships. In the presence of their friends, teenagers are more aware of their behavior and can regulate each other should things get out of hand. Despite this, make sure you know who your child is with and where they're going whenever they're on their way out the door.