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Awkward but necessary: fathers should talk to sons about dating

Although it could be awkward, our teenage experts suggest that fathers talk to their sons one-on-one about dating and relationships, but don't push them too far out of their comfort zones.

By Guest bloggers / May 25, 2012

Even though teens learn about relationships through school health programs, our experts recommend that fathers talk to their sons about dating one-on-one. In this file photo instructor Steven McIntosh talks to students about relationships and sexual health at the South Boston High School in Boston.

Patricia McDonnell/AP

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There is no doubt that this is a difficult topic to address. I witnessed an attempt at this type of discussion recently.

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Talking Teenage

Jennifer Powell-Lunder (l.) and Barbara Greenberg (r.) are practicing psychologists specializing in adolescent issues. Both have been published widely and appear regularly in the print and broadcast media as teen experts. They blog together at Talking Teenage.

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A father and a teenage boy, around 16 years old, were sitting in the booth next to me in a restaurant. In my role as an observer and sometimes eavesdropper, I noticed a few silences in their conversation.  What started as a lively discussion shifted into a different mode. Somehow they were now on different wavelengths. 

I then heard some of the comments. The father was saying "just ask her out-she's beautiful."  The teenager said "it's not that easy dad." The father was most likely tapping into his own teenage experience and dismissing his son's concerns.

My impression was that the father was trying to be encouraging, but in this effort he wasn't paying attention to his son's anxieties and concerns. He was probably trying to be a member of his son's fan club. Ironically, the boy must have felt that he was unable to live up to his father's expectations and was disappointing his father.

If this father asked for advice I would have suggested that he take his cues from his son and back off a bit. After all, if you make something sound too easy, you may inadvertently make your teen feel inadequate. 

Fathers: Remember to meet your sons at their level of comfort. From that point on you can make gentle suggestions that are in the teen's comfort zone.

Remember that your sons are not exactly like you were as teens and do not have the benefit of several years of dating under their belts. 

Remember to be the leader of your sons' fan club but do it patiently and with attention to cues.

Good luck!

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg blogs at Talking Teenage.

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