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When Should Your Teenager Start Dating?

When Should Your Teenager Start Dating?

“Mum/Dad, when can I start dating?”

Yup, the time to answer that daunting question is finally here.

The Dilemma

As parents, we want to keep our children close to our hearts. We want to protect them at all costs and keep them healthy and happy. The idea of anyone possibly hurting them physically or emotionally is a scary thought, and we can’t help but want to keep them far away from those circumstances.

No matter what age our children may be, they’ll always only be babies in our eyes. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we may try, we can’t protect our children from everything. Getting their hearts broken from dating is inevitable and even necessary for them to grow and mature.

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Experts have also expressed their concerns that waiting too long to allow teenagers to date could have a negative impact on their maturation. Dating can be a sensitive topic, even for adults.

Most of the time, when a teenager starts to take an interest in dating and is open to the idea of “going out” with the opposite sex, they become more sensitive during this time. As a parent, even if you’re against the idea of your teenager dating now, be tactful. Making them feel miserable about their feelings will only sour your relationship with them, not the boy or girl they’re interested in.

Since this is probably your child’s first time experiencing such feelings, you want to be as patient and open-minded as possible. They could be taking this seriously, and they probably hold the object of their affection close to their heart.

The Magic Number

So, you’re telling me there’s a definite number which will help me decide when my child should date?

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Well, no. But according to Ron Eager, a pediatrician at Denver Health, the magic number is 16. And Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, agrees: “Sixteen — and even a bit older — is a good age for dating, provided that the teen is mature. Maturity can be measured by willingness to participate sufficiently in household chores, treating others with respect, getting good grades, and managing emotions.’”

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should allow your child to date at 16 if you feel uncomfortable with it. Everyone has different opinions on the topic of what age is “right” for their child to start to date. The answer depends on many factors, including how one has been raised and the child’s personality and maturity levels.

How to Cope with Your Teenager Dating

Firstly, understand that once your child hits a certain age, it’s normal for him or her to want to date. To be curious about dating. About boys. About girls. Teenagers have feelings to explore.

Accept that it’s normal and there’s not much you can do to stop it from happening (you know that). And when your teenager starts to date or expresses interest in it, you want to be calm, well-prepared and ready to guide them in this phase of their life.

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Secondly, remember how you were when you were a teenager. You surely had crushes, and there were probably people you wanted to date, but couldn’t. You probably gained some life lessons from those experiences that you want to teach your child. It’s important to not control their life or try to turn it into what you wanted your life to be during this process.

It’s difficult, but you must learn to let your children live their own lives instead of controlling every little thing they’re going through and trying to determine how their lives are supposed to turn out.

Lastly, you must be their go-to person in any situation they may face throughout their life, not just in dating. Communicate with them. Listen. Be honest with how you feel about them dating other people now, and lay down the rules and limitations of what they can and cannot do. Once they’re aware of your worries and concerns – if they care – they’ll take your advice into consideration.

The Bottom Line

One reason you’re probably reluctant about the idea of your child dating is because of his or her youth and inexperience. Perhaps you think, “she’s still young, she doesn’t know a thing about dating,” or you’re afraid your teenager might do something illegal, like handling drugs and alcohol, or might get involved in sexual activity.

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You’re afraid their lack of knowledge and maturity will cause them more harm than good. And you’re right. In most cases, teenagers don’t have the slightest clue how to date. If you ask them what dating is, don’t be surprised when they tell you it’s about the other person replying to their text ASAP. This is what’s happening today. With the use of smartphones and various social media platforms, technology has created new “standards” for what dating is supposed to be.

If you’re still uncomfortable or don’t feel right about your child dating, think about what would make you comfortable. For example, perhaps you’d feel more relaxed if she went out in a group first, with other friends involved. Beginning dating at a slow pace can help your child, plus you can be sure you won’t start to freak out when he or she goes out on an actual date.

It’s perfectly okay to worry and feel anxious for your child. We will never be prepared, no matter how prepared we think we are. It feels like just yesterday your child was first placed in your arms. But we can never stop them from growing. So, remember to be there for your children, tell them what they NEED to hear, not what they want to hear, and always be transparent about your feelings.

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Samantha Seah

Content Specialist

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Last Updated on August 22, 2019

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 27% of children under the age of 18 are living with a single parent.[1] That’s over 1/4th of the U.S. population.There is a common misconception that children who grow up in single parent homes are not as successful as children living in two-parent homes.

One crucial detail that was often left out of studies when comparing single and two-parent homes was the stability of the household. There is a correlation between family structure and family stability, but this study shows that children who grow up in stable single-parent homes do as well as those in married households in terms of academic abilities and behavior.

But providing stability is easier said than done. With only one adult to act as a parent, some tasks are inherently more challenging. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to make the parenting journey a little easier for yourself and stay sane while doing it.

1. Don’t Neglect Self-Care

Before anything else can be done, you must be caring for your own needs adequately. Only when you are feeling well-rested and healthy can you be at your best for your children.

Many parents tend to put their kids’ needs first and their owns last, but that will result in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Make time to eat regularly and healthfully, get plenty of rest, and squeeze in exercise whenever you can. Even a short walk around the neighborhood will help your body get much-needed movement and fresh air.

Your children depend on you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are well-equipped and ready to take on that responsibility.

2. Join Forces with Other Single Parents

At times, it may seem like you’re the only person who knows what it’s like to be a single parent. However, the statistics say that there are many others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Find single parents locally, through your kid’s school, extracurricular activities, or even an app. There are also numerous online communities that can offer support and advice, through Facebook or sites like Single Mom Nation.

Although single moms make up the majority of single parents, there are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S. A great way to connect is through Meetup. Other single parents will more than happy to arrange babysitting swaps, playdates, and carpools.

Join forces in order to form mutually beneficial relationships.

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3. Build a Community

In addition to finding support with other single parents, also build a community comprised of families of all different types. Rather than focus solely on the single parent aspect of your identity, look for parents and kids who share other things in common.

Join a playgroup, get plugged in at a church, or get to know the parents of the kids involved in the same extracurricular activities. Having a community of a variety of people and families will bring diversity and excitement into your and your kids’ lives.

4. Accept Help

Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all yourself. There are probably people in your life who care about you and your kids and want to help you. Let them know what types of things would be most appreciated, whether it’s bringing meals once a week, helping with rides to school, or giving you time to yourself.

There is no shame in asking for help and accepting assistance from loved ones. You will not be perceived as weak or incompetent. You are being a good parent by being resourceful and allowing others to give you a much-needed break.

5. Get Creative with Childcare

Raising a child on a single income is a challenge, with the high cost of daycares, nannies, and other conventional childcare services. More affordable options are possible if you go a less traditional route.

If you have space and live in a college town, offer a college student housing in exchange for regular childcare. Or swap kids with other single parents so that your kids have friends to play with while the parents get time to themselves.

When I was younger, my parents had a group of five family friends, and all of the children would rotate to a different house each day of the week, during the summer months. The kids would have a great time playing with each other, and the parents’ job becomes a lot easier. That’s what you would call a win-win situation.

6. Plan Ahead for Emergencies

As a single parent, a backup plan or two is a must in emergency situations. Make a list of people you know you can call in a moment’s notice. There will be times in which you need help, and it’s important to know ahead of time who you can rely on.

Look into whether or not your area offers emergency babysitting services or a drop-in daycare. Knowing who will be able to care for your child in the event of an emergency can relieve one potential source of anxiety in stressful situations.

7. Create a Routine

Routines are crucial for young children because knowing what to expect gives them a semblance of control. This is even more important when in a single parent home.

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If the child travels between homes or has multiple caretakers, life can seem extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Establish a routine and schedule for your child as much as possible. This can include bedtime, before/after school, chores, meal times, and even a weekend routine.

Having a routine does not mean things cannot change. It is merely a default schedule to fall back on when no additional events or activities are going on. When your children know what to expect, they will be less resistant because they know what to expect, and days will run much more smoothly.

8. Be Consistent with Rules and Discipline

If your child has multiple caretakers, such as another parent, grandparent, or babysitter, communicate clearly on how discipline will be handled. Talk to your ex, if you are sharing custody, as well as any other caretakers about the rules and the agreed-upon approach to discipline.

When a child realizes that certain rules can be bent with certain people, he/she will use it to their advantage, causing additional issues with limits, behavior, and discipline down the road.

This article may help you to discipline your child better:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

9. Stay Positive

Everyone has heard the saying, “Mind over matter.” But there really is so much power behind your mentality. It can change your perspective and make a difficult situation so much better.

Your kids will be able to detect even the smallest shift in your attitude. When the responsibilities of motherhood are overwhelming, stay focused on the positive things in your life, such as your friends and family. This will produce a much more stable home environment.

Maintain your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to be silly. Look towards the future and the great things that are still to come for you and your family. Rediscover and redefine your family values.

10. Move Past the Guilt

In a single parent home, it is impossible to act as both parents, regardless of how hard you try. Let go of the things that you cannot do as a single parent, and instead, think of the great things you ARE able to provide for your children.

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Leave behind the notion that life would be easier or better with two parents. This is simply not true. There is a multitude of pros and cons to all family dynamics, and the one you are providing for your kids now is the one that they need.

Don’t get bogged down by guilt or regret. Take control of your life and be the best parent you can by being present and engaged with them on a daily basis.

11. Answer Questions Honestly

Your kids may have questions about why their home situation is different from many of their friends. When asked, don’t sugarcoat the situation or give them an answer that is not accurate.

Depending on their age, take this opportunity to explain the truth of what happened and how the current circumstances came about. Not all families have two parents, whether that is due to divorce, death, or whatever else life brings.

Don’t give more detail than necessary or talk badly about the other parent. But strive to be truthful and honest. Your children will benefit more from your candor than a made-up story.

12. Treat Kids Like Kids

In the absence of a partner, it can be tempting to rely on your children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But your kids are not equipped to play this role for you.

There are many details within an adult relationship that children are not able to understand or process, and it will only cause confusion and resentment.

Do not take out your anger on your kids. Separate your emotional needs from your role as a mother. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, look for adult friends or family members that you can talk to about your issues.

13. Find Role Models

Find positive role models of the opposite sex for your child. It’s crucial that your child does not form negative associations with an entire gender of people.

Find close friends or family members that would be willing to spend one-on-one time with your kids. Encourage them to form meaningful relationships with people that you trust and that they can look up to.

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Role models can make a huge difference in the path that a child decides to take, so be intentional about the ones that you put in your kids’ lives.

14. Be Affectionate and Give Praise

Your children need your affection and praise on a daily basis. Engage with your kids as often as possible by playing with them, going on outings, and encouraging open dialogue.

Affirm them in the things that they are doing well, no matter how small. Praise their efforts, rather than their achievements. This will inspire them to continue to put forth hard work and not give up when success is not achieved.

Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time and effort in making lasting memories.

Final Thoughts

Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. Without the help of a partner to fall back on, single parents have a lot more to take on.

However, studies show that growing up in a single parent home does not have a negative effect on achievement in school. As long as the family is a stable and safe environment, kids are able to excel and do well in life.

Use these tips in order to be a reliable and capable parent for your kids, while maintaining your own well-being and sanity.

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Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

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