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4 Tips for Deciding When To Let Your Child Start Dating


4 Tips for Deciding When To Let Your Child Start Dating

Circle of Moms member Lynn W., whose sixth grade son is among the youngest in his class, worries that some of his friends already have girlfriends. "I think 11 -12 is still too young for that stuff...I'd say maybe 9th grade might be okay, but am not really sure." How young is too young to allow your child to date?

Is There a Right or "Normal" Age?

Many moms say that the dating issue is likely to come up for the first time during the tween years, and that it can make a parent surprisingly anxious. But moms who've already been through this stage say it needn't be cause for stress; the key is to figure out whether your particular child is truly ready to begin dating.

J. Nichole N., a mom of five, spaning from age 6 to 25, believes that it "depends on the maturity of the child." And Angie B. adds that "The age for dating is different [in] every family," and that much depends on a particular child's level of preparedeness. She suggests parents sit down with their pre-teens to discuss the issue calmly, before it even comes up. This conversation will help you figure out if your child is ready.

Keeping Your Perspective on Tween Dating

Other moms offer the calming reminder that dating during the tween years often means fairly innocent "group dates," where kids go out in groups with both male and female classmates. Wendy S., a mom of seven with an age span of 11 to 25, says that these group outings will ease both your child's transition into the dating world and your worries about it. She explains: "I have allowed all of the older five to group date in the last year of middle school, moving into dating as they were each ready in high school. This has seemed to work great. In fact, two of the oldest are married to [people] that they started dating at 16 or 17. I will continue my same policies with the last two, who are in 6th and 8th grade."

As stressful as the idea of your child dating is for you, remember that is is probably even more stressful for your child. Sherayna M. suggests that parents try not to make a big deal out of it. "Lots of kids say that they want to 'date,' in fact some even have 'girlfriends' or 'boyfriends,'" but what they are really doing is fairly tame. Jenn E. found that very scenario to be the case when her 11-year-old son wanted to know if he could date a girl from school. As she recalls, "I told him that it was ok for them to like each other and asked him what he knew about dating. Turns out he didn't know anything, he just thought that it was hanging out and being good friends. Anything more than that, and I wouldn't have allowed it."

Why You Should Be Proactive

Another issue moms might want to consider is the possibility that your child will start dating without your permission. Circle of Moms member Alex's 14-year-old has a boyfriend in spite of her efforts to forbid it: She "asked us for permission, but we said 'no, you are too young to date.' She is anyway. She has gone to the extreme of bringing this boy to our home when we are at work. Even after being grounded for her actions, she talks on the phone for hours at night using our cells or land line when we all go to sleep."

Anne M. points out that at this age, "we can not put leashes on our tweens," and that whether a parent allows it or not, kids will find a way to date if they really want to. That's where parental involvement, or lack of it, comes into play, says Jennifer N.  "I remember being a teen and the more my mom pushed to keep me away from someone the more I wanted to be with that person. So my plan with my kids is simply to be involved as much as possible. I think that kids feel we don't trust, and maybe we don't to an extent."

Setting Boundaries

It's better to know that your child is dating and set appropriate boundaries than to have her sneaking around, adds Jennifer N. "Personally I would stop resisting and have her invite him over for dinner so you can meet him and learn who he is, etc. Set boundaries for phone and text times; keep an open dialogue with her and let your daughter know that if she doesn't bring her grades up and does anything to violate your trust then the BF has to go. Fourteen is too young, but the the more you fight her, the more she will fight you."

Erica G. lets her 13-year-old daughter "date," but keeps tabs on her text messages and Internet usage. "My 13-year-old daughter now has a 'boyfriend' for the first time. They still call it 'going out,' like we did in the 80s. She and I are very close and she knows that I keep tabs on all her text messages and her Internet usage, and so far I have found nothing but innocence in this relationship. It is just a natural progression of feeling attractive to each other, and finding they have common interests and exploring that. I think that as long as the kids know what is appropriate and accepted by us, the parents, there is nothing wrong in letting them explore their feelings."

Other moms agree that it is important to set boundaries and establish rules. Angie B. and her spouse "set down some solid boundaries for her on their first date: no drinking, no drugs, no sex."

Finally, many Circle of Moms members stress that it is normal for parents to not know what to do. The best we can all do is to approach a child's emerging interest in dating with openness, so that she doesn't feel the need to hide anything from us. As Marissa P. shares, "I have told [my girls] they couldn't date until they were 20 but I know that won't happen. I guess it would depend on how mature my girls are when they get older and approach me with it. My 9-year-old tells me when she thinks a boy is cute...So I have faith that she will come talk to me when she is ready to date."

At what age will you (or did you) allow your child to date?

Image Source: Melissa Gardner via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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