When Can I Start Dating?
Dating, romance and relationships are common topics that a tween or teen would think about. Rather than being a taboo subject, this is a good time for parents to have an open and honest conversation about dating, values and cultivating healthy relationships with the opposite sex.
Are you ready to talk about romance and relationships with your child?
It’s not surprising for a child as young as 10 years old to be curious about dating and romantic relationships. Some cartoons and television shows targeted at tweens portray young teens in dating relationships. Your child may even see older children in school having crushes on other school mates, or experience one themselves as they begin to go through puberty. Take this opportunity to have a frank chat with your child. You could begin by letting them know that experiencing romantic feelings are a normal part of growing up.
Ask them what they think dating is about, and what happens on a date. With this, you may take the opportunity to explain what you think dating is. For example, if you believe that dating should be an intentional process, you may use simple language to explain it, “ dating is for a man and a woman to get to know each other better, and see how well they like each other, before getting married”.
You can also share your own dating journey with your spouse. This will help your child to understand that dating can be fun and romantic, and also leads to a long-term commitment of marriage.
At this stage of childhood, your teenager gains more independence, and is learning to make choices. If your child is asking when they can date, they may already have someone in mind that they want to date. Share with your child that while there is no specific optimal age to start dating, there are some qualities that indicate when a couple is ready to start dating. Share what these might be, and why they are important. The qualities you highlight could include respect for others, personal integrity, sense of accountability and responsibility. As you discuss these with your child, they can also begin to evaluate if they have the necessary prerequisites to begin dating.
While your child may not be ready to start dating at this stage, this is a good time to talk about your family’s stand on dating, and the boundaries that need to be drawn when they do go on dates. These might include curfew timings, meeting your teen’s date, and even their parents for greater accountability. Setting expectations early will prevent miscommunication later on, and also prepare your child to make wise decisions in their future dating relationships.
Your older teenager is probably closest to the dating age, and at a phase where they are spending more time socialising with friends, and have greater exposure to outside influences. Your child is also likely to be more mature, and able to understand more complex ideas – thus, you may want to share more deeply with them. In addition to reinforcing what a healthy dating relationship should look like and the qualities that a dating couple must have, you can also have a frank discussion with your teen about premarital sex, and the potential physical and emotional issues that may arise as a result of this. While your child may already be aware of options such as contraceptive methods, this would be a good time to highlight that abstinence remains the only guarantee against unwanted pregnancies. Keep the door open to your child – assure them that you are always there to support them when they start dating, and that they can come to you with any questions or doubts they have.