Dating has changed a lot since many parents' teenage years. In the past, true dating traditionally began sometime during high school and might have involved going out somewhere for dinner, catching a movie at the local theater or drive-in and saying goodnight at the front door. While many of these classic dating customs hold true today, what many young people consider "dating," you might describe as "hanging out." Often, romantic encounters will occur in the presence of a larger group of friends while going to the movies or walking around the mall.
As a dad, these new customs can seem confusing – making it difficult to define what is and isn't "dating," and decide whether your child is mature enough to be seeing someone romantically in the first place. This can be especially alarming with reports of increasingly frequent instances of teen dating abuse and violence, according to Futures Without Violence. So how can you know when your son or daughter is ready to start dating?
While the majority of your decision must be based on your own family preferences as well as your assessment of your child's emotional maturity, there are some guidelines which can help shine some light on this complicated issue. Basic sexual education is a must for any teen who wants to begin a romantic relationship. Make sure your son or daughter understands the realities and risks associated with sexual activity as well as information about safe sex practices to prevent early pregnancy or STDs.
Around age 16, your child is probably going to make his or her own decisions about dating, whether you like it or not. However, before that age you can likely influence your teen's romantic behavior. Drive your child to and from dates and try to get to know his or her romantic interest in the process. Working to stay involved in your child's social life will help you be a supportive presence if the relationship sours, or raise the red flag if you feel that it's getting too serious