Her lipstick is a tad too dark, and her dress is way too short. You would say something about it if it wasn't for that gleam in her eye that seems to say, "Look at me! I have finally arrived!" It's official. That's not indigestion you're experiencing. It's a growing dose of panic in your normally very happy, easygoing parental heart. While she's entering her personalized Disney movie with Prince Charming himself, you feel you're shaking hands with Alfred Hitchcock himself. However, there is a way to create a happy ending for both of you, and it begins with a reality check.
While your daughter's venture into the dating world may cause you justified anxiety, remember that teen dating brings many benefits. According to Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital, on Today.com, dating helps teens learn how to communicate, how to negotiate and how to determine what qualities they appreciate in friendship and perhaps a life partner. Take time to remember your first date -- who it was, how you felt, where you went and what you wore -- to help you put yourself in your daughter's shoes and give you better perspective. If you survived without too much damage, your daughter probably will, too. Also, remember how your parents reacted. They can be an example of what to do -- or not to do -- for you, now that you're in the parent role.
Do your homework. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 9.4 percent of high school students reported being physically abused on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. Avoid paranoia, but remember that it's your responsibility as a parent to protect your daughter. Get to know your daughter's date beforehand via a phone conversation, and ask as many questions as you need to so you can get a good understanding of her date's character and his level of respect for your daughter.
You may be placing your daughter in the care of a date for a few hours, but her welfare is ultimately tied to the guidelines you set and how well you have prepared her for this moment. The National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative encourages parents to take daughters out on dates before Prince Charming enters the scene. Use the time for some straight talk about sex, safety and romance. Discuss the importance of listening to her intuition. Also, set a curfew. Ask her to keep her phone with her and on at all times, emphasizing that you will respect her time and will only call if it is absolutely necessary.
When date night rolls around, focus on keeping yourself calm, knowing your daughter is at least as nervous as you are. Keep your attitude positive, and express to your daughter that you truly hope she enjoys this special moment. Make plans to go out yourself or have a dinner party to keep from over-obsessing and worrying about your daughter. You may have a barrage of questions upon her return home, but give her time to process the evening's events personally. Ask her about her date in the morning, but demonstrate sensitivity to the degree of data she may or may not want to share with you.