My mom did it for my sisters and me as teens, and it made a world of difference.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

My oldest has reached the age where he's "dating," we all know what this really means for teens: they like someone, they decide to become exclusive, and they depend on their parents to allow them to see each other outside of school.

He's not quite old enough to drive, but we are getting there. In the meantime, that means I do lots of driving so they can spend time together.

Since this has become a part of his life, it's made me think about one thing my mom always did when I was a teen: she'd always touch base with the parents of the boys my sisters and I dated. The longer we were together, the more contact she'd make with the parents and the more effort she put into getting to know them.

It wasn't something that bothered me. In fact, it made me feel supported, validated, and taken seriously in my young relationships.

However, my son isn't me and he's not the biggest fan of my getting to know his girlfriend's parents. But it really isn't up to him and he knows that if he wants to spend time with her outside of school, I am more comfortable if I get to know her and her parents a bit.

I'm not saying I invite them out for lunch the minute they start dating. I simply mean I contact them before they spend time together just as I would if any of my children were being dropped off at a new place to hang out. This usually means a quick text, phone call, or meeting for a quick cup of coffee.

And, if they haven't spent time together outside of school yet and I happen to see a parent of one of my children’s girlfriends or boyfriends, I always make it a point to walk up to them and introduce myself. They always appreciate and say things like, “Oh, it’s so nice to learn more about, Addison. I hear about him all the time.”

When our kids start exploring relationships and we can tell their heart is swollen with love, we always wonder who this person is that's taken a hold of our child—especially if it's a first crush or first boyfriend or girlfriend.

While we may think it's silly and won't last, in all honesty, this person is occupying a big part of our child's brain; it is their world at that time, and I always want to know more about who they are daydreaming about.

But more importantly, I like touching base with the parents to make sure we are on the same page about certain things like making sure they are supervised when they are together, or if they are comfortable with the two them going to the movies alone versus gong with a group of friends.

I think it also helps the teens to follow the rules if they know their parents talk, touch base, and are on the same page about what they will or will not allow.

Of course our kids’ love interests come and go, but when we take steps to get to know the parents of the kids our teens are spending time with, whether it's a romantic relationship or not, it helps us get to know our children better and we are better able to support them and be there for them if they have questions about their relationship.

And maybe my son doesn't appreciate how I like to get to know his girlfriend’s parents right now, but I know in the long run he will look back and realize it was another thing I did because I cared and wanted to be present in his life and guide him to make the right decisions.