The New Dating Scripts Teens Are Using

As parents we don’t often want to admit that this also means our tweens and teens are sexual beings. 

Yikes! I get it. 

But actually, our sexual wellbeing starts much younger than the moment we decide to become sexually active and therefore education is needed to start your kid off on the right foot. For example, teaching a tween about consent and that they have a right to say no and that doesn’t make them a mean, selfish, or prudish person. 

Or, helping your teen understand that the pornographic-style imagery they see in today’s music videos aren’t a realistic representation of what adult sexuality is. 

Or, helping you understand how sexuality develops so that when it is time to speak with your kid about something, you know you are doing it in a developmentally appropriate and empowering way that doesn’t make you or your kid feel super awkward. 

Because it can be super super awkward!

I have been working for years to help people have a healthy outlook on sex and their sexuality mentally, emotionally, and physically without shame, fear, or embarrassment!

And that includes helping YOU help your teens develop healthy sexualities. A healthy sexuality includes the things we feel nervous talking about (Pleasure! Desire! Enjoyment! Attraction!) and it also includes the things we all know are so important to talk about (Boundaries! Consent! Safety! Protection!)

Let’s start by talking about dating as a way to break the ice. Specifically, the “Dating Scripts” that your teens are currently using.

—–

“Dating Scripts” is an emerging buzzword you may or may not have heard. 

What the heck are they anyway and how do they affect the health of your tween or teen’s relationships?

Put simply a dating script is a set of guidelines or expectations that our tweens or teens follow in order to feel that they are fitting in “appropriately”. 

Contrary to the name, they aren’t actually “scripts” like you would see in the theatre or for a movie. Meaning, they aren’t guidelines on what exactly to say in a conversation, or standard phrases that teens are saying back and forth. 

Instead they are almost invisible expectations and pressures (set by movies, by our upbringing, by our peers) on how we should behave. Which affects, of course, what we say, how we say it, and to whom. 

Here’s a popular one: 

The boy should always ask out the girl. It is a dating script in the sense that when a guy feels too shy to ask out his crush, he can be made fun of or pressured by his friends until he complies. OR if a girl asks out a guy she may be shamed or teased for being so forward. 

As you can see, scripts like this typically “typecast” (to borrow a theatre term) our youth into behaving in ways that limit their opportunities for expression and growth. 

Chances are your kid doesn’t even realize how much of their social and romantic interactions are being moulded by scripts (and fun fact: in my clinical research, I have learned that many adults didn’t realize how held back they were by these scripts either). 

BUT we can help break these barriers so that all of us, our tweens and teens included, can live healthier and happier lives – romantically, and yes – eventually – sexually. And trust me, as icky as it may feel, you definitely want your child to grow up with a healthy sense of their sexuality because it will directly impact their physical and emotional wellbeing. 

So let’s start today by doing two things: 

1. Repeat after me: “It’s OK that I feel totally icky and uncertain when I think about raising a teen or tween to be sexually healthy. AND I will commit to becoming more confident and comfortable so that I ensure I can support my child as they navigate that crazy roller coaster ride of dating that lies ahead of them”

2. Give yourself a head start on developing that comfort and confidence by learning about dating scripts so you know exactly where your teen or tween may need your insight and support most. Try asking your teen what the current dating rules are – you may be surprised at how much (or little!) things have changed since you were a teen.