Thinking about your teen dating may cause you to worry about the possibility of her getting her heart broken and being pressured into sex, as well as about whether things like peer pressure are playing a role. Although you may have established a specific age at which your teen can start dating, there are other things to consider, as each child develops in her own unique way (and age is just a small part of the picture).
Kids often have their first crushes in elementary school. I remember being chased on the playground and having my hair pulled by a boy who “liked” me when I was in fourth grade; this was his way of giving me attention. But this type of behavior changes once kids hit the teen years. In fact, 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. Keep in mind that allowing teens to date and interact with people they’re attracted to, 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 seem to be able to handle stressful situations well? Is he able to talk to you, and open up about girls in his class? If your teen seems emotionally mature to the concept of dating, it is likely okay to let him start dating.
Does Your Teen Feel Pressured to Date?
Peer pressure can be a serious problem. When your child’s friends all start dating, she may feel pressure to find a boyfriend of her own.
If this is the only reason your teen is interested in dating, remind her that there is no hurry to enter the dating world just yet. It may be best for her to focus on school, her friends, and other interests, without complicating her life by adding a romantic relationship to it.
Does Your Teen Have a Sense of Who He or She Is?
Has your teen established who he is and what’s important to him (Well, at least as much as one so young can)? Does he know what he enjoys doing and what makes him happy? Once he commits himself to a relationship, he will likely lose focus on himself, to focus on another person.
Every teen needs to “find himself” to some extent before he can invest that time in another person. It’s a sign of maturity when your teenager knows his own likes, dislikes, and what makes him happy, sad, and so on. My own son had several solid friendships, was a good student, and dedicated soccer player, playing at the academy level across the east coast, when he had his first girlfriend. He was grounded and this made me comfortable about his having a serious relationship with a girl.
Has He or She Approached You About Their Romantic Interests?
Most teens that are ready to date, will tell you. They’ll let you know when they are ready to start seeing someone. My own son told me he was interested in dating a particular girl before dating her and this was an important defining moment in our relationship. His seeking my approval reassured me that the bond between us was strong and healthy.
If you’re lucky, like I was, your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend will develop a relationship with you and you’ll get to know him or her. In my situation, being a mom to all boys, and suddenly having a girl around a lot of the time was a nice and welcome change. Of course, it was important to discuss safe sex with my son and I think he appreciated my openness about the topic. If your son has a girlfriend, it is important to discuss with him that pressuring her to take the relationship to an intimate, sexual level is not acceptable. Make sure you 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 she wants to talk about her 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.