Dear Grace: My daughter is at an age where she wants to start dating. I want to give her advice on how she should behave as a good Christian, but I'd like some help, because I do not want to "turn her off" by sounding too strict or demanding. What kinds of things should I tell her?
I can well imagine how protective you must be feeling right now. The young woman whom you probably still consider in many ways to be your "little girl" is about to embark on a new part of her life's journey. It is often especially difficult to let go of a daughter, I think, because in many ways they seem so much more vulnerable than boys.
Your request for help in advising your daughter as she begins to think about dating reminds me of something a friend once told me that I never forgot. Perhaps it might inspire you as it did me. "Grace, you are the daughter of a king!" my friend said, "and that makes you a princess." And, you know, it really is true! Our Father is the master of the entire universe the King of kings. And because we are His children, that makes us very special indeed. Each one of us is unique and irreplaceable, and worthy of the very best.
It is unfortunate that today many young people do not see themselves this way. Often, it is because they do not feel loved by God and do not see themselves as being made in His image and likeness. If they knew this, it would make them realize that they have dignity. And do you know what dignity means? It means having worth. It means that every one of us is worthy valuable deserving of all that is good. Teenagers who do not know this often end up not having love and respect for themselves. And they look for love in all the wrong places.
If your advice to your daughter focuses on rules of "don't do this" or "don't do that," she most likely will not listen much because she will think that you are merely trying to restrict her and also that you do not trust her. The best way, therefore, will be to approach her from a positive standpoint.
For sure, some attention will have to be given to the topic of sexuality. In her book By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand describes a woman's body as a "beautiful garden" that must be kept sealed to all and the key to it given exclusively to one's husband. Share this with your daughter. How wonderful if every young woman thought of her body this way.
There are, of course, different kinds of dating. It used to be that young men and women did not date until they were ready to consider marriage, but that has changed. Now, we find more and more that young people are allowed to date at a much earlier age where the intent is not marriage at all. It is in this casual type of dating where teenagers can become mixed up or confused about what is expected of them by members of the opposite sex and by their peers.
A bit of advice I often give to young people is to take Jesus with them everywhere they go. When they hear me say this, their eyes often widen. I tell them how much He loves them and wants the best for them, and how He wants to be in every part of their lives. It is a challenge for teenagers because so often the peer pressure is quite strong. But I then remind them that when all is said and done, who is it that will always be there for them no matter what?
To the best of your ability, teach your daughter about God and His tremendous love for her. Help her to see what a precious treasure she is in His eyes. Then, when she begins to date, you will not worry because if she has a true love for God in her soul, she will desire to always do the right thing and to think and act and treat people in ways that are pleasing to Him. This does not mean that she will be perfect and never make a mistake, for no one is perfect in this life. But at least she will try.
God bless you for being such a good mother.
Grace MacKinnon. "Dating." Catholic Exchange (February, 2003).
Reprinted with permission of Grace McKinnon.
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. She is the author of Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith published by Our Sunday Visitor. Order online by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-348-2440.
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Copyright © 2003 Grace D.
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