Table of Contents
Parenting teens is a roller coaster. There’s so much joy as our kids become independent humans with their own talents, interests and opinions. But there’s plenty of stress as we help them navigate newfound independence and grow as people. We want to provide support while giving our kids space. Dating is an area where parents often have questions about what’s appropriate. We want to give our kids social opportunities while ensuring they stay safe. While every teen–and every family– approaches dating differently, we have some guidelines that can help parents and teens alike.
What Should I Do When My Teen Mentions Dating?
The first thing to remember is that it’s normal for your teen to want to date or experience a romantic relationship. While every family has different views on boundaries, it’s essential to focus on clear communication and providing a safe space for your child to share their thoughts and feelings. When you focus on healthy dating instead of making dating taboo, you offer your child a chance to build social skills and grow emotionally.
Dating today is different from the experience many parents remember. With the current focus on socializing in groups, 21st Century teens actually date less than their parent’s generation. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2019, nearly two-thirds of adolescents aged 13 to 17 had never been in a dating or romantic relationship. HHS reports that adolescent sexual activity also has decreased, with the percentage of high school students reporting sexual activity dropping from 54 percent in 1990 to 38 percent in 2019.
Is My Teen Old Enough to Date?
Parents should remember that the social scene differs from what we knew in the 80s and 90s. Today’s teens often socialize in groups instead of on individual dates. Kids may start spending time in mixed-sex friend groups in late middle and early high school, offering a chance to build friendships with opposite-sex peers. Some experts recommend waiting until 16 for one-on-one dating. However, there’s no hard and fast rule, and the answer depends on your child’s maturity level rather than age. Setting boundaries and promoting healthy relationships is vital whenever you and your teen decide they’re ready to date.
How Can I Promote Healthy Dating for My Teen?
- Relationships with parents and other adult mentors are key to healthy teen relationships. Modeling trust and communication can help your child avoid emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in dating relationships.
- Set boundaries. You can be supportive and open while providing the structure that boundaries and limitations offer. Give your child a curfew, limit social media, and create rules about driving with other teens in keeping with state and local laws. Boundaries help keep your child safe while letting them explore and make new connections.
- Talk with your teen about your beliefs and expectations related to dating and sexuality. Remain open to their point of view if you encounter differences of opinion.
- Respect your child’s privacy within reason. Give them space. Offer guidance and be available without inserting yourself too much into their dating life.
- Have tough conversations about risky behaviors, including sexual activity. Have open discussions about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to boys and girls about the importance of consent.
- If your older teen or young adult decides to become sexually active, don’t panic. A thoughtful approach can prevent teen pregnancy, STDs, and risky behaviors. In these cases, your family pediatrician can play an essential role in adolescent sexual health, offering access to birth control and STD prevention. It’s not always comfortable for parents, but it’s a topic we shouldn’t avoid. Sometimes teens may be more comfortable asking their pediatrician about sexual health. Pediatricians often partner with parents to ensure their teens’ reproductive health. However, Virginia law also allows minors to obtain birth control without parental consent.
- How Can My Family Pediatrician Help When It Comes to Teen Dating?
Loudoun Pediatric Associates is dedicated to helping teens and their families navigate the joys and challenges of adolescence. Our team focuses on the physical and mental well-being of every child. We know that relationships with peers, including friendships and dating, are a huge part of our adolescents’ worlds. Our team of providers includes adolescent medicine specialist Dr. Lindsay Roach. Dr. Roach specializes in mental healthcare, reproductive health, menstrual-related disorders, eating disorder medical support, and other adolescent-focused practice areas. Working with teen patients and family members, our team provides evidence-based care, plenty of compassion, and access to a provider they feel comfortable talking with.