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What Age Is Appropriate for Dating: A Guide for Parents


Being a parent entails committing to guiding your child through a variety of complex and difficult life stages. You assist them comprehend dating and love by changing their diapers, teaching them how to tie their shoes, and eventually changing their diapers.

The preteen and adolescent years are difficult for both you and your child. You may anticipate to deal with a significant amount of conflict while your hormones fly. So, how can you prepare yourself to deal with various inquiries and issues when it comes to dating? And what is the proper age?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, girls start dating around the age of 12 and a half, and boys at the age of a year. However, it may not be the type of “dating” you had in mind.

Defining dating

You may be surprised to hear dating labels like “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” and “together” from the lips of your sixth-grader. At this age, it probably means your son or daughter is sitting next to a special someone at lunch or hanging out at recess.

Groups play a big role in relaying information about who likes whom. Even if your son is mooning over a certain girl, most 12-year-olds aren’t really ready for the one-on-one interaction of a true relationship.

For eighth-graders, dating likely means lots of time spent texting or talking on the phone, sharing images on social media, and hanging out in groups. Some kids may have progressed to hand-holding as well. In high school, strong romantic attachments can be formed and things can get serious, fast.

Talking to your child

When your child mentions dating, or a girlfriend or boyfriend, try to get an idea of what those concepts mean to them. Take note of how your child reacts when you discuss dating.

It could be a little uncomfortable or embarrassing, but if your child is unable to even discuss it with you without getting defensive or upset, take that as a sign that they probably aren’t ready.

Other things to consider include the following.

  • Is your child really interested in someone in particular, or are they just trying to keep up with what friends are doing?
  • Do you think your son or daughter would tell you if something went wrong?
  • Is your child generally confident and happy?
  • Does your child’s physical development match their emotional development?

Be mindful that dating is essentially group socialization for many tweens and young teenagers. While there may be a spark between two people, it’s more of a group outing or get-together at the movies or the mall than double-dating.

This type of group interaction is a safe and healthy approach to interact with people of the opposite sex without the awkwardness that comes with one-on-one situations. Consider it like dating with a set of training wheels.

So, when is a child ready to date on their own? There is no such thing as a correct answer. It’s critical to think of your child as a unique individual. Take into account their emotional development and sense of accountability.

For many kids, 16 seems to be an appropriate age, but it may be entirely suitable for a mature 15-year-old to go on a date, or to make your immature 16-year-old wait a year or two.

You can also consider what other parents are doing. Are lots of kids the same as yours already dating in the true sense of the word?

Setting guidelines

When you’ve made a decision, communicate your expectations to your youngster. Explain to your child if and how you want them to check in with you while they’re away, as well as what you consider acceptable and suitable behavior and a curfew.

Also, be considerate. Teenage romances may be described with terms like “puppy love” and “crush,” but they are extremely genuine to them. Do not downplay, degrade, or mock your child’s first relationship.

When you think about it, this is your child’s first intimate interaction with someone outside of the family.

Teenage relationships

Teenage relationships can gather steam quickly. Remember that high school romances tend to be self-limiting, but look for warning signs too.

If your child’s grades are dropping or they aren’t spending much time with friends anymore, consider limiting how much time is being spent with that special someone. And be frank about sexual health as well.

It can be a difficult conversation for everyone involved, but it’s critical to be honest and clear about the facts.

Easing heartbreak
Breakups are common in early relationships, and they can be unpleasant. It’s crucial to acknowledge your child’s feelings without attempting to lift them out of their unhappiness. Be patient and compassionate, and remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.
The takeaway

It can be frightening and unsettling to consider your child dating. Regardless of whether your child has brought it up or not, don’t pretend it isn’t happening (or that it won’t at some point).

You must express your dating expectations and regulations if you want your youngster to grasp them.

Allowing your youngster to learn about dating from friends or the media is not a good idea. Start a casual conversation about what makes a healthy relationship to provide the groundwork for when they’re ready to date.

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