· Talk with them about relationships and dating before they actually start to date. It will be easier to keep the dialogue open if you've already established this rapport.
· Set the rules before dating actually starts. And gather their opinions about such things as curfew and readiness to ride the bus.
· Learn about their dating readiness by asking leading questions. Some suggestions: How do you know you can trust someone? How do you know when you like someone? What's the difference between lust and love?
· Know when to listen and keep your opinions to yourself. An ill-timed negative comment about the current boyfriend or girlfriend, could send your contrary teen rushing into their arms.
· Offer your own teen dating stories, at a time when your child is receptive to hearing them. And be truthful. Let your child learn from your mistakes.
· Listen to their stories. You may be naturally inclined to tune out the pre-teen saga of who said what to whom each day. But this is the way this age group communicates and it would behoove you to pay attention to the players and the story line.
· Be wary of wide age ranges in the dating relationships. An eighth-grader is probably too young to be dating someone in high school. Frame the rule around the ability to drive. If one person is already driving, or learning to, and the other is years away from sitting behind the wheel, the age gap is too great.
· If you can, let your teen-ager know that you trust them with the responsibility of dating or hanging out with friends. And make sure they realize you are still available to pick them up if things aren't going well.
· Consider it an opportunity for the opposite-sex parent to really maintain a close relationship with their teen-ager. A dad can give his teen-age daughter some great advice about what boys are really like, same for moms and sons.
· Think about signing your pre-teen-ager up for self-defense or assertiveness training classes before dating starts. Make sure they have the tools to stand up for themselves and keep themselves safe.