Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

More by this author

Samantha Seah

Content Specialist

My Family Went on Vacation for the First Time in 21 Years of My Life When Should Your Teenager Start Dating?

Trending in Child Behavior

1 5 Tips For Teaching Money Management To Children 2 7 Effective Tips for Your Child’s Positive Growth 3 When Should Your Teenager Start Dating? 4 Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD 5 Four Tips to Building Your Child’s Confidence

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 18, 2018

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

1. Communicate clearly.

When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

2. Clarify rules.

Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

3. Get out of the past.

It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

Advertising

4. Don’t triangulate.

One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

5. Bless and release.

One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

6. Practice mindful parenting.

Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

7. Develop a support network.

Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

Advertising

8. Practice presence.

Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

9. Practice “I” statements.

A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

10. Learn to compromise.

If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

11. Give a little.

Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

Advertising

Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

12. Talk with your children.

Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

13. Leverage your relationship.

Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

14. Attract, don’t pursue.

Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

15. Open up.

Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

Advertising

Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

16. Embrace change.

A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

17. Make room for new possibilities.

A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Read Next