No parent is ever prepared for their teen to tell them that they have a crush on their classmate. Instantly, you break out in a cold sweat, and your stomach starts stirring. You start wondering, “Wasn’t there a time I held you in my arms to snuggle?” Their childhood is still fresh in your mind, so this news is sure to throw you off. A lot of parents feel that they blinked, and their toddlers evolved into teens with romantic feelings.
Having your children dip their toes in the dating pool is overwhelming. However, it’s important to remember that this day would come eventually. The best thing you can do as a parent is to guide them as they start to explore. Don’t leave them in the wilderness to figure out how to relate to those of the opposite sex alone. Ephesians 6:4 serves as a reminder that your role as a parent is to bring them up in the Lord, even when it comes to dating. Here are some dating guidelines for your children as they start exploring the dating world.
Decide on the right age to start dating.
If you’re wondering what the right age is for your kids to start dating, look no further than the American Academy for Pediatrics. The AAP says that children should be allowed to date starting at 16 years old. This idea may be overwhelming for any parent because, at 16, your child is far from ready for marriage. You may also be tempted to ban them from interacting with the opposite sex before they’re in their twenties. However, this practice will do more harm than good.
Let your child participate in group socialization.
Research indicates that children start taking an interest in the opposite sex between 11 and 12 years old. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re ready for dating. Typically, your 11 and 12-year-old will start to feel attracted toward a classmate, a child from their neighborhood, or a church. They’ll swoon over them without necessarily saying they’re interested.
In their tween stage, they’re not ready for alone time with their particular interest. This is where group socialization comes in. Group dates can help your tween interact with the opposite sex in a safe and healthy fashion. They can hang out together at the mall, the park, and many other places. Group dates should only occur with kids you trust and are familiar with. Spending time with other children will help them quench the need to interact with the opposite sex but in a safe way and without honing in on one person.
Assist your child with setting boundaries.
For your child to date in a safe and healthy manner, you should agree on some ground rules and make sure they follow them. Aside from setting boundaries, encourage your teen to advocate for themselves and not lower their standards under pressure. Some limitations may include waiting until the agreed age to start dating, dates happening in public places, and being home before curfew.
Decide on proper behavior.
It would be best to remind your child to behave and uphold respect as they start dating. Dating shouldn’t give them a reason to taint their bodies. Teach them about things that will bring them closer to temptation, like touching and kissing. Tell them these behaviors are a sure way to put them on a slippery slope. Remind them of Proverbs 6:27-28, which says, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?”
Put things into perspective for them.
Dating among teens is part of their growing process, so it’s essential to remind them to take things easy. It’s doubtful that the person they like now will be the person they marry, and it’s still too early for them to mull over future mates anyway. However, it would be best if you encouraged them to interact with their contemporaries on a friendly level rather than a romantic one. Remind them that there’s a time for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything, there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” If they’re slacking on their schoolwork due to their relationship, assist them with prioritizing their time and urge them to focus on school.
Emphasize no sex before marriage.
Research indicates that more than half of teens in the United States have had sex by the time they turn 18. Parents shouldn’t tread lightly when it comes to premarital sex. In the best way possible, inform your children that sex is for marriage. Don’t be afraid of having “the birds and the bees” talk with them. Tell your children that participating in premarital sex is a sin and defiles God’s temple, as stated in 1 Corinthians 6:18-19. If they start feeling peer pressure, let them know they can talk to you about it.
Don’t rush them.
Imagine your child is in their twenties but has no interest in dating. They likely stick out like a sore thumb among their peers. You may feel tempted to nudge them into the dating pool. However, children develop emotionally at differing rates. Let your child start dating when they’re ready. Each child is unique. As their parent, you should nurture them as they are.
Watching your child reach milestones can be a proud and meaningful time. It seems like it was just yesterday that they were babies who needed you for any and everything. You look up, and their tweens and teenagers who barely talk to you or want you around. When your child starts dipping their feet in the dating pool, let them know this is a natural part of life and there should be rules. Start them off in their tweens by allowing them to interact with the opposite sex in groups. You can agree on an appropriate age to start dating when they get older and lay down the law.
Finally, it would be best for you to come to terms with the fact that your baby isn’t a baby anymore. Let them explore the world around them and always be there if they need you.