“Mum/Dad, when can I start dating?”
Yup, the time to answer that daunting question is finally here.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.