Few people look forward to the day their teens ask permission to date. As the parent of a young adult with learning disabilities, you may be concerned about whether your child is ready to handle the responsibilities and pressures of dating. Many parents choose a reasonable age and tell their teens they can date at that age. You may wonder if that approach is appropriate for your learning disabled child, and your concerns well founded. Many learning disabled students:
- Have difficulty standing up to their dates and saying no to negative peer pressure in dating situations. Kids who cannot refuse inappropriate requests from friends may also be easily manipulated by the opposite sex in a dating relationship.
- Have low self esteem, which can lead them to engage in risky behavior or become sexually active when pushed by a date.
- Have problems picking up on social cues that could prevent them from recognizing potential dating problems.
Despite the potential problems with learning disabled teens and dating, there strategies that can help:
- Tell your teen there will be no set age for dating. He can date when he chooses to demonstrate maturity and responsibility on a regular basis at home and school.
- Discuss with your teen what specific behaviors she must demonstrate before she will be allowed to date.
- Encourage her to share her own ideas on skills she feels are important to practice in her life before she is ready to date. Examples of skills you may want to consider including assertiveness, a set of personal moral values, regular assistance with household chores - without arguments, a strong sense of self esteem, willingness to balance her life and continue her own individual interests such as sports, hobbies, volunteer activities, and time with friends, follows your rules, and is truthful.
By giving your teen these guidelines, you will be teaching your teen:
- Important life skills he will need throughout his life;
- To develop her own goals and think about her progress toward them;
- Respect your family's and her own personal values and morals; and
- Develop healthy boundaries and the self esteem and assertiveness necessary to keep them in place.