Dating customs have changed over the years. Things are different now than they were 20 years ago. The biggest difference is the age at which children begin dating. According to statistics, the national average for girls is twelve and a half years and thirteen and a half for boys. Naturally, parents ask what is a good age to start dating. Should they let their kids go on dates?
The recent trend among adolescents is for boys and girls to socialize as part of a group. Yet, you should not confuse group dating with double-dating. The majority of people in group dating are unattached. Youngsters in the group spend the same amount of time with same-sex friends and opposite-sex members.
Before we can answer what is a good age to start dating, we have to define the term. So, let’s go.
The terms boyfriend and girlfriend come out easily from the lips of teenagers. Even sixth-graders have started dating. At that age, a boyfriend and girlfriend probably mean they are sitting next to a special someone at lunch or hanging out at recess.
For eighth-graders, dating means spending time texting or talking on the phone, sharing images on social media, and hanging out in groups. Some kids progress to hand-holding as well.
It is during high school that teenagers start sharing strong romantic gestures and form a romantic attachment. Then, things can get serious fast.
How To Talk With Your Teenager About Dating?
If your child has started to bring up the topic of dating, it might be time to talk. First, you have to define the term dating with your teen child. What do they mean when they talk about a romantic relationship with someone?
Young teenagers usually date in a cluster. They rarely do in one-on-one situations. It is just part of the natural transition from same-gender social groups to coed groups and then to one-on-one dating.
Yes, the dating conversation might get uncomfortable or embarrassing. But it is something you have to go through. Here are some things to consider:
- Do you think your son or daughter would tell you if something goes wrong?
- Is your child confident and happy?
- Is your teenage kid interested in someone in particular, or do they just want to keep up with what friends are doing?
- Does your kid’s physical development matches the emotional development?
When is your child ready to start dating? Nobody can tell for sure. Neither you nor your child can tell it. Consider that each person is an individual. The important part is to talk with your kid about emotional maturity and a sense of responsibility.
Yes, for most kids, 16 seems the appropriate age. But it is possible for a mature 14-year-old and 15-year-old to date. Last, but not least, consider what other parents are doing.
Setting The Rules
We must stress this. If you set up rules, you are not infringing your kid’s independence. Rules are there to limit unwanted things. Research shows that teens thrive when their loving parents set up limits and enforce them.
It is important that you set up rules as a family. That means involving your teenage kid when discussing the rules. Talk about what your family thinks is the right age.
Talk about teen dating. For example, places where your child can go. What time do they have to come back? Keep in mind there might be a curfew for minors.
Keep your teenager safe. Teens sometimes might not know how to bring up dating issues to you. It is important that you try and help your kid open up.
Dating violence is very much real. According to statistics, one-third of American teenagers experience sexual, physical, or emotional abuse from a date.
There are warning signs you should pay attention to. Those are:
- Your teenage kid gets angry easily
- Your teenage child tries to control friendships and activities
- Starts insulting and putting people down
These signs can appear in both your teenager kid and his/her teenage partner. Dating abuse can be confusing, so this is where you should step up.
When you have made a decision about setting guidelines and rules, be clear with your child about expectations. And be kind. Use terms like puppy love, crush, and similar to describe romance and dating. Do not try to minimize or trivialize their first healthy relationship.
What To Avoid When Discussing Dating?
While you are preparing to talk with your child about teenage romance, teenage dating, and similar topics, you might get caught off guard. This is when you might burst or lash out. Freaking out is a big mistake and might make matters worse. Choose your words carefully. When you are talking with a tween, understand that the budding relationship is significant.
Do not try to downplay it or make fun in any way. With that in mind, here are some things you need to avoid:
- Do not assume the relationship is not serious
- Do not allow too much freedom
- Never brush off the dating relationship as unimportant
- Do not forget to talk about issues like sexting, consent, and even sex and sexual intercourse
- Do not allow your tween to go on one-on-one dates unsupervised if you think he/she is not ready
- Never pretend like the relationship doesn’t exist
How To Handle Breakups
Same as relationships are very real in the teenage years, breakups are real and possible as well. The majority of tween relationships do not last for long. Yet, a teenage romance can last for a while.
Generally speaking, several months is the average lifespan of a teenage relationship. That means at some point, you will have to help your teen to navigate through a breakup. Their first experience with a broken heart might catch them by surprise. One minute you think you are in heaven, and the next day you find out that your soul mate has left you.
When your child is dealing with a breakup, you have to listen more than you speak. Validate what they are feeling. There is nothing worse than a teenager or tween experiencing heartache and parents minimizing their feeling. Do not tell your kid it wasn’t a big deal. For them, it was.
Take this opportunity and teach your kid how to manage uncomfortable feelings in the future in a healthy and responsible way. That applies even more to social media nowadays. There is no need to turn to social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and similar and share your feelings there. Other kids can turn that into cyberbullying.
Last, but not least, find ways to help your child refocus its attention on something else. Help him/her not dwell on the breakup. For example, refocusing their energy into more productive ways like doing something fun with friends or taking up a new hobby.
Whatever You Call It, It Is Still Love
Parents often use terms like puppy love to take a cynical view of teenage romance. They say things like “it is their hormones raging”. Well, no matter what it is, crush, puppy love, infatuation, or anything else, it still feels like love to your kid.
And that is important. Remember that the next time you talk with your kids about what is a good age to start dating.