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Is Your Child Ready to Date?
Home » Parenting Advice » Is Your Child Ready to Date?
Is your child ready to date?

by Kris Hallstrom, Manager of the Boys Town National Hotline

tags: Connecting with Teens, Healthy Relationships, Teens, Tweens

Is Your Child Ready to Date?

Like many other milestones in life, there is no magic age that defines a teen as being ready to go on their first date. 

What is meant by "dating" in today's world?

  • A date typically refers to a planned activity with another person, where a romantic relationship exists or may develop. Younger adolescents may use that term "dating" very loosely to include any time spent with someone whom they have a romantic interest.
  • Sitting next to each other at a ball game, or walking in the hall together at school may be considered as dating among some peer groups. As a result, one of your first steps as a parent may be to communicate your interpretation of what the word "dating" means with your child.

Is there an age or grade that you as a parent feel dating is appropriate?

  • If you have more than one child, are you going to keep the same parameters in place for each of them? You may want to consider talking to other parents. Hearing guidelines set by others can help you to determine what seems reasonable for your family.
  • Since emotional maturity and age do not always go hand in hand, take time to consider what age you think is best for each individual child to begin dating.
  • While some teens want to start to date at an early age, some have absolutely no interest in dating until well after they graduate from high school. If your teen isn't interested in the dating scene, that's ok. If you have concerns, listen and observe.
    • Do they have friends and spend time with peers outside of school?
    • Do they seem to be generally content and comfortable in their own skin?

There is no reason to try to set them up, or to ask endless prying questions if dating is not a priority for them at this point in their life.

Set Guidelines

  • If your teen expresses an interest in dating, it is helpful to have some guidelines thought out ahead of time. That way you can pre-teach your expectations from the very beginning of your child's dating experience.
  • Group dating or hanging out with a larger group of friends can be a more comfortable alternative for parents and teens, rather than a formal one-on-one dating experience. This gives kids a chance to socialize with others without a making a commitment to an actual relationship. I might be good to offer this compromise if you don't think your child is ready for a one-on-one date yet.