He had prayed for an opportunity to talk to her alone—without her three brothers around. “Oh, okay,” Julie replied, in cryptic teenage fashion. “Have you thought through how far you are going to go, physically, with the opposite sex? They wanted to encourage her to make the right ones. He knew his wife always got the mail, but Julie was acting like a basketball team ahead by one point in the fourth quarter, hoping the clock would run out. Our teens do not go out on a date every Friday and Saturday night.
She looked nonchalantly out her window as their car crossed a small bridge. “I would like to ask you a very personal question and give you the freedom not to answer if you don’t want to.” He paused, waiting for her reply. Our junior high and high school age teens don’t date anyone exclusively.
They usually hasten to inform me, “All his (her) friends are dating.” My quick answer is: When they’re married, and only with their spouse. Now back in the old days — the early 1980s — you met resistance for such a decision mainly from the children. You can’t wrap a moral bubble around them; they have to deal with life. A recent survey suggested that if a child has a first date between the ages of 11 and 13, he or she has a 90% probability of being sexually active during senior year in high school. Key factors to consider in granting any type of dating freedom are your child’s: • moral maturity • independence of thought • history of conduct in other social settings • strength of will • social judgment • choice of friends • responsibility toward schoolwork • respect for authority.
Seriously, dating age depends upon all kinds of factors, and varies from child to child, even within the same family. Never consider your neighborhood’s “average age” when making your decision. Parents used to expect instinctively to be challenged by their kids, especially in judgments of how fast one should grow up. If you make kids too different, they’ll feel like weirdos who don’t fit in. First date at age 14 leads to a 50% chance; first date at age 16, 20% chance. I figure if I make the list long enough, my kids won’t be eligible to date until they move out.
Seriously, though, when is your child ready to date? "At this age, kids use dating labels but aren’t ready to have much direct one-on-one interaction beyond maybe sitting together at lunch or recess," says Dale Atkins, Ph D, a family therapist in New York.
"Most of the activity happens in a pack, and communication takes place between friend groups." By 8th grade, dating probably means talking on the phone and hanging out, usually in groups.
If your kids starts at twelve years old dating somebody, they have a 93% chance that they are going to lose their virginity by high school. And so, when you have your kids wait until they are older, you set them up to make far better choices, be able to resist more, and have a better goal in mind for what they want to have when they finally get married. Dads, it’s our job to run interference for our kids. We need to sit our boys down when they start to date, and tell them, “This is what I expect of you when you take a girl out. You don’t take her to parties where there’s drugs or alcohol or anything she is going to be exposed to that is going to undermine her. You don’t have to be cleaning your guns and all that stuff. Pay attention to how they respond when you start a conversation about dating.“Of course it will probably be uncomfortable for both of you,” Anthony says.