When Should Kids Date--How Old is Old Enough?
by Deb McCleod
The day your child comes to you and asks if he can ask a girl out is the day when you realize he's not a baby anymore.
But is he old enough to date? When should he date? What happens if your girl accepts a date without asking you? What is dating these days anyway?
Don't panic, mom. There are answers to your dating questions. First, much has changed since we were in the dating world. As we hear so often, kids these days grow up much faster than we did. But that doesn't mean that we have to allow exposure to things we can control. We might not be able to control what kids hear on the playground at lunch, but we can control some of the experiences they have. That means, yes, you can control this aspect of your child's life, too.
It's important to realize that there are many factors that play into whether a child is ready to date. Sometimes the decision is made for him or her, as you might have religious or other beliefs that dictate the appropriateness of when a child should start dating. But assuming that you have no specific beliefs one way or another that will influence your decisions, how can you know when the time is right?
First, it's important to remember that many children these days refer to a date when in fact they aren't talking about a one-on-one date. Often, children 'date' in groups and that might bring you more comfort than picturing your child on a solo date with another child.
Second, there are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines. Ask yourself these questions:
♣ Is your child responsible?
♣ Does your child think for him or herself? Able to make decisions not based on what other children are doing, but on what's right for him or her?
♣ Does your child understand the concept of sex and understand that it's OK to say "no"?
♣ Is your child amenable to having a chaperone? This is one way to let your child date earlier than you might otherwise feel comfortable. You simply accompany him or her on the date, but do so in an inconspicuous way. For instance, take them to the multi-plex but sit apart from them or see a different movie altogether. But then you're there to collect and drive them home. You might also allow your child only to have "dates" at home-- watch movies, enjoy a snack, and listen to music. You can easily keep an eye out that way.
The general rule about dating for most parents seems to be that kids can date around age 14. Many kids will feel as if they have had dates before that if they, say, head to the movies in a group of other kids and one boy or girl they particularly like, but dates alone often begin at 14 to 15. Some parents believe that their kids shouldn't date until they are old enough to drive.
The decision on when your child should date doesn't come quickly or easily for most parents. It is usually arrived at after a good deal of examination over the child's emotional and physical maturity and your own standards of appropriateness. It's also not a one-size-fits all proposition. If you have several children, you might decide as they come of age that they are ready to date at different ages.
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