When is a teenager ready to date? As a parent, you may have established a specific age in your head, but like with most parenting plans, reality can change things. Each child develops in his or her own unique way, and age is just a small part of the picture. So how can you know?
Kids often have their first crushes in elementary school. Many teens start “going out” or “going steady” with each other as early as the middle school years, and in today’s world, this might involve frequent phone chats or texting. Some level of connection between your teen and her crush may be inevitable, as they interact at school and exchange phone numbers. This allows them to develop healthy relationship skills. But you know your child, and it should ultimately be up to you as a parent just how far a budding teen romance will go.
Ask yourself some questions to determine if your teen is ready to start dating:
Is Your Teen Emotionally Ready?
Dating can be an emotional roller coaster, especially for hormonal teenagers. The ups and downs can be wonderful, yet also painful.
Does your child handle stressful situations well? Do they talk to you and open up about classmates who interest them? If your teen seems emotionally mature to the concept of dating, it is likely okay to let them start.
Does Your Teen Feel Pressured to Date?
Peer pressure can be a serious problem. When your child’s friends all start dating, they may feel pressure to find a boyfriend or girlfriend of their own.
If this is the only reason your teen is interested in dating, remind them that there is no hurry to enter the dating world just yet. It may be best to focus on school, friends, and other interests, without complicating life by adding a romantic relationship to it.
Does Your Teen Know Who They Are?
Has your teen established who they are and what’s important? (Well, at least as much as one so young can)? Do they know what they enjoy doing and what makes them happy? It’s important to understand that once a teenager commits to a relationship, they often lose focus on themselves and instead focus on the other person.
That’s an admirable trait, but to at the expense of losing one’s own development along the way.
Every teen needs to “find themselves” to some extent before investing in another person. It’s a sign of maturity when your teenager knows their own likes, dislikes, and what makes them happy, sad, and so on. It’s a lesson many of us learn only later in life — and maybe your teen won’t listen. But if you can instill that concept early on it can help your child in the long run.
Have They Approached You About Dating?
Most teens that are ready to date will tell you. This is significant because it opens up the opportunity to discuss larger topics, such appropriate texting behavior, the risks of boys and girls sexting, respecting your partner, and safe sex practices.
If your son has a girlfriend, it is important to discuss that pressuring her to take the relationship to an intimate, sexual level is not acceptable. Make sure to stress that sex is only appropriate when both partners truly feel ready, and when they are, be sure that they are aware of the importance of taking precautions.
Also, be prepared to potentially see your child deal with a broken heart. Always be willing to listen when they want to talk about their personal life, and remember that for teens, something like breaking up with their first boyfriend or girlfriend will be quite traumatic; he or she will likely feel like the world is coming to an end. Remind yourself of the mood swings and drama that you went through as a teen and you will be able to relate to your child and provide comfort and support when she needs it.