In the month of February, we are looking at relationships. We’ve looked at our co-parenting relationships, and now we want to look at when our kids are looking at dating! Last week we looked at having realistic expectations, and now we want to know about the age-appropriateness of dating. This is a common question for parents – so let’s look with a Research & Reality lens.
- “Kids younger than age 14 years do not have the social skills needed for dating. Early dating often leads to problems. Often kids learn about dating relationships from TV and movies that don’t show appropriate dating relationships. Young people will likely act in ways they see portrayed, rather than develop a healthy relationship with the other person.”
- “Youth spend less time with same-sex friends. Same-sex friendships help kids learn many skills about getting along with others that they may not develop in a dating relationship.”
- “Personal identity is not formed. Most youth do not know themselves well, what they like and dislike, and their own values. Such self-understanding is required in order to relate in a healthy dating relationship. Youth who do not know what they want or should expect in a relationship may be too easily talked into behaviors for which they are not yet ready. Young dating partners may become too close too quickly, which may keep them from maturing emotionally.”
The reality is, every child develops (physically, socially, and emotionally) at different rates. Only you, your co-parent, and your child can make the decision about what’s best for your family! Other factors that may influence your decision could be your family values, your child’s temperament and maturity, and your personal comfort level. Also understand that youth vary greatly in their wishes to be in dating relationships. There is nothing wrong with youth who have no interest in dating.
Here’s a few tips you can use in your own family –
- Encourage group activities. By sixth or seventh grade, it is appropriate for youth to sit with their friends of both sexes at ball games or other events.
- Discuss the reasons for not allowing your child to date. Choose a time when both of you are calm and can listen and discuss wishes, values, and rules.
- Be firm if your child continues to pressure you. You can say, “I love you and the answer is no.”
- Encourage your child to be active in school and community activities and to identify a hobby that interests him or her.
- Stay involved. Know where your child is and what he or she is doing. Unsupervised time can lead to trouble.
Get more information to help inform your conversation about dating in our Parenting in Challenging Moments – Teen section!