Dating - that crazy mix of butterflies in your tummy and awkward moments; holding hands with sweaty palms and first kisses followed by hurtful breakups that rip your heart out. My kids are WAY too quickly approaching this stage. On the one hand I want my kids to experience all the fun and excitement that goes along with dating. On the other hand it terrifies me - partly because of how dating and marriage ended for me with their dad. As a divorced mother I know I'm a wee bit jaded and I want to be so careful not to pass those feelings on to them. Yet how do I spare them from making the same hurtful mistakes I made? Truth be told I really want to lock them in cages till they're 25.

Since I realize that wouldn't be the most beneficial thing for them I've been making a mental list of the wisdom I'd like to pass on to them - a list that I believe will serve them well.

One thing I know my teenagers don't love is a long lecture - even though jewels of wisdom are falling from my lips. The ability to glaze over and zone out while we talk is at its peak in the teenage years. So, the more succinct we as parents can put things the more likely they'll be to take it in.

So I've made my list short and sweet - which means my daughter's number one dating tip - "wearing socks with sandals is a deal-breaker" didn't make the cut.

Here are the top 3 pieces of advice I'll give my kids about dating:

1. If he/she's not nice to the waitress - he/she's not nice.

2. When someone shows you who they are - believe them.

3. There's no rush.

Allow me to expand on each of these points.

1. I'm sure women everywhere have heard at one time or another to watch the way a man treats his mother because that's how he'll end up treating you. While I agree with that to a certain extent I will tell my kids to watch how their date treats everyone! I loved the expression I heard recently, "If he's not nice to the waitress he's not nice". Don't kid yourself for a second by thinking if your date mocks, belittles, raises his voice at, ignores, or is rude or cruel to anyone from their mother to the person taking your order at a restaurant they won't end up being all those things to you too. When the honeymoon period of your relationship is over and "real life" sets in you'll be on the receiving end of any mistreatment you've observed them dishing out to others.

2. The next bit of advice goes hand in hand with the first piece. When someone shows you who they are - believe them. Some of us want to believe the best of people a little too much. There's a fine line between being a gracious, forgiving person who allows you to make mistakes and realizing someone will continue to hurt you. But there is a line! Respect the line. When someone shows you they don't have your best interest at heart - they've crossed the line. Believe them when they show you they don't treat you in a way that's beneficial. Don't give someone like that the chance to hurt you repeatedly. The sooner you walk away the easier it will be.

3. Last but not least - There's no rush! One of my favourite parenting moments to date was when my daughter came to me saying she doesn't understand why some of her classmates at 14 were so bent out of shape when they didn't have a boyfriend. She said, "We're 14! We have the rest of our lives to experience all that!" How levelheaded of her. It makes me worry less about her as she enters the dating years. I believe she'll make great decisions if she continues to keep that one idea forefront. They have years and years to experience the joys and trials of dating. Each stage is exciting and wonderful and when you move on to the next stage you can't undo it and re-enjoy the last one. Make each stage last. Love yourself enough to do what is most beneficial for you! If anyone tries to rush you into doing what you're not comfortable with be very cautious! That's how abusive manipulation and control begins. In which case refer to #2.

I can only hope these words of wisdom will take hold in their hearts and minds. I know they need to make their own mistakes and they'll grow with each one. But the more equipped they can go into the world of dating and relationships the better I'll feel! Above all of this I'll let them know I'm here ready to hear about their joys and heartaches even if they go against every word of advice I ever gave them.

Author's Bio: 

Susan L. Paterson invites you to visit her website http://communicationwithkids.com/. If you wish parenting were simpler you'll love her blog. It's overflowing with "simple parent strategies" that will help improve your relationship with your kids. While you're there sign up for a free "simple parent strategy" to be e-mailed weekly to help simplify parenting.