Teen Dating: When is your Child Ready for their Very First Date
“Parents”,” teens” and “dating” – three words that offer two different perspectives on one single matter. While dating as a teen might sound like an interesting topic to be discussed between your teen and their group of friends and such, it definitely doesn’t prove to be such an amazing talk if it’s directed at you – the parent. It’s probably even worse if you felt the need to bring up that topic to your teen, since it more often than not means that you saw a reason to do so: be it the impression that it just feels right for them to know this kind of stuff at their current age, or because something that they had done had made you consider discussing the aspect of dating with your not-so-small-anymore child.
If you aren’t really worried about your child getting to the dating phase, or that you want them to perceive you like a laid-back parent who offers them their own freedom and chance at gaining life experiences as they go, with both failures and victories, then it means that you might not be so much into setting an age “checkpoint” for your child to follow. There is no “only after you’re 16” or “when you turn 18 you can do whatever you want”, since those would imply that you still see a vague possibility of them getting into the dating game before those ages, but rather, it’s a lot like “when they get there, they get there” and you prefer to cross that bridge whenever it gets to it.
However, if you have already set some guidelines about dating and ironed out some expectations for your teen to live up to, then you’re the opposite of the parent above. It’s not a bad approach, although it’s much more strict and strictness naturally opens a window for rebellious acts to be performed by teens, all in an attempt to regain that feeling of independence they so much yearn for at this age and of which they get little of regularly.
If you’ve suggested an age after which they can start dating, then you should try to respect that rule yourself, and not change your mind as the teen nears the set mark. It’s a normal thing for teens to gravitate more and more towards forming bonds and relationships of all kinds with the other kids in their learning environment primarily, or their entourage overall, and if you think that you can stop that natural process, then you could not be any more wrong.
So if you’ve established an optimal age for when your teen should start dating, then you probably already established a few basic rules as well, or you at least plan on doing that. If you prefer to let things run their own course, that’s all the better too. But some things that both types of parents should keep in mind are the teen’s academic results and progress, their level of maturity and their more or less apparent preferences when it comes to dating.
That being said, you will be able to know that your child is or is not ready to date whenever these aspects start showing:
Dating takes up a lot of a teen’s time, whether either of you likes that or not and regardless of what promises they will make about not neglecting certain school responsibilities. Once in love, and even in a relationship, a lot of the teen’s focus shifts onto their boyfriend or girlfriend, and might lead to some academic slips. However, if you think that your teenager’s academic situation is being kept up at a constant pace and that both of you are satisfied with the grades and think that dating will not be such a damper on studying, then perhaps your teen can try it out!
The thing about teens and dating is that there is no “universal starter age” that can just be applied to every child. It depends a lot on their personality and on the responsibilities and lifestyle they have been used to until now because, at the end of the day, dating takes two responsible people who can be mindful of each other’s feelings and still be mature enough to compromise and act as a team.
The best thing you can do to test your teenager’s maturity level and, at the same time, make sure that you two understand the same things when you talk about “dating” as a concept, is to ask them what they like about their crush or love interest, why they would like to be together or what kind of things they have in common. It’s easy to spot a mature child between one who says they share the same movie taste and another who says that they seem to have the same goals in life, although it’s a thing that can only be judged on the case by case basis. After all, even immature teens can easily pair up with like-minded teens, and while their relationship wouldn’t be too long-lived, they might be just as serious about their date.
The Idea of Dating: As Explained By The Teen
Regarding your understanding of what dating means, you should ask your teen what they think dating entails, what their expectations are from the other party and then share your own views on the matter. Explain, compare, discuss and then reach a middle ground! Dating has changed so much along the years, from expecting the boy to pick up his date from her parent’s home, then bring her back safely and on time, to calling texting or talking online a form of dating as well, so you will want to know what your child’s idea of a date is like before you can offer advice and decide if they can start dating.
Last but not least, as a note for parents who adopt a more strict style of parenting, the more hurdles you set in between your growing teen and whatever goals they might have in mind, or things they would like to try out in order to live new experiences and learn from them, the more they will try to find loopholes and ways around you to achieve their targets anyway. Try not to accidentally push your child away from you by being too protective or strict if you don’t want to find yourself suddenly unaware of their whereabouts or generally find them placing less trust in you. A healthy parent-child relationship is built on mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual understanding!