It seems like each year the dating age gets younger along with younger girls getting pregnant. Although teen pregnancy rate has declined in recent years it is still alarmingly high. But what does teen pregnancy have to do with your child dating? The connection is simple. Teenagers who are not dating are less likely to have sex and therefore end up pregnant. So at what age should your child start dating? The answer is something that parents have to decide for themselves but in this blog I hope to share some ideas to help parents reach a decision.
I know that as a teenager I was not allowed to date until I was 16. Before that age I was allowed to hangout as a group with boys my own age as long as there were not the same number of boys as girls. At the age of 16, which incidentally is the age most states allow teenagers to start driving, my parents felt that I would be mature enough to handle the responsibilities and risks associated with dating. At that point they still encouraged group dates, where two or three couples would go out together over single dating. Why – because on a group date I was less likely to get into trouble. My children will also not be allowed to date until age 16.
The younger a child begins dating and becomes involved with a member of the opposite sex the more likely they are to get into trouble. If at the age of 12 or 13 your child begins holding hands with a boy it will quickly evolve into kissing. By the time they are 16 they will most likely be having sex. According to the study “Sex and America’s Teenagers” just under half of teenagers have had sex by the time they are 17. Consequently 4 out of 10 girls become pregnant before the age of 20. Besides the risk of pregnancy 1 out of 4 sexually active teens gets an STD every year. Date violence should also be a consideration. According to the Bureau of Justice “About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship with 38 percent of date rape victims being young women from 14 to 17 years of age.”
As a parent you need to decide at what age you are going to allow your child to date before it becomes an issue. When they are still young reach a consensus as husband and wife. Then talk to your child about the age they can start dating while still in elementary school. Then bring it up during the middle school years. This way your child will know that there is no dating until they reach a certain age. Some might argue that if you impose age restrictions that your child will go behind your back. That is always possible. But if your child has known the age they can start dating for years they are less likely to defy you. If they do then there are other issues than just not being able to date.
When deciding at what age you are going to allow your child to date consider the following questions.
- At what age do you want your child spending one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex?
- At what age do you feel that your child will be mature enough to handle a dating relationship?
- At what age do you want your child to begin kissing?
- How important is it that your child waits for marriage to have sex?