Dating has changed since you were a teenager. The most striking difference is the young age at which boys start to do it: on average, twelve and a half for girls, and thirteen and a half for boys.
However, you may not recognize an appointment as such. The recent trend among early adolescence is for boys and girls to socialize as part of a group. They go out in a group to the mall or the movies, or join a group to throw a frisbee on the beaches.
Don’t confuse group outings with double or triple dates. Although there may be an occasional romantic partner among the members, most are single. If anything, the young people in the group spend time interacting with both their friends of the same sex and those of the opposite sex.
Denver Health Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Ron Eagar views group dating as a healthy way for teens to find it easier to enter the dating arena, rather than dive in. “The number one benefit is safety,” says the father of two older children. Going out in mixed groups also gives boys and girls the opportunity to simply enjoy each other’s company, without the discomfort or sexual pressure that can invade solo dates or dating.
Outings as a couple alone
At what age are children old enough for a solo date? Not before thirty-five. Better if at forty.
Many of us think this way when we imagine our son or daughter disappearing into the night on the arm of a young lady or young gentleman.
As a general rule, Dr. Eagar advises not allowing a solo date before the age of sixteen. “There is a huge difference between children of fourteen or fifteen and between those of sixteen or seventeen in terms of life experience,” he says. You can add or subtract a year depending on how mature and responsible the young person is. Community norms can be a factor. Do other parents allow their teens to date?
Love and relationships
Because conversations between parents and teens should include the topic of hormones and other biological aspects of love and attraction, the same amount of time should be devoted to in-depth discussions about love as the most powerful and sincere human emotion.
Love is a subject of endless fascination for teenagers. At the top of the list of questions is, “How do you know when you are in love with a person?” They are genuinely curious about their parents’ courtship and marriage (“Mommy, did you fall in love with my dad at first sight?”) And, if applicable, divorce (“Daddy, how can two people love each other for so many years and soon stop loving each other? “).
Having an imperfect romantic résumé doesn’t disqualify you from starting this conversation. You may say, “I didn’t always make the wisest decisions about love, but I have promised myself that the next time I get involved with someone special, I will settle for nothing less than a healthy and honest relationship. When you are older and ready to Going out as a couple, I hope you do the same. We both deserve the best, right? “
Call it teenage love, but it’s still love
Adults generally have a cynical view of teenage romance, as if it were a chemical imbalance in need of correction. “It’s all about sex,” they say. “You know what it’s like when the hormone rampage starts.” A boy and a girl float down the street holding hands, groggy with love, and parents see that testosterone and estrogen have the rendezvous.
Just look at the words used to describe affection between two young people: “infatuation”, “infatuation”, “adolescent love”. If it feels like love to the two cubs, isn’t this love? To reiterate the previous point, it was not long ago that many couples were married in their teens.
“Parents should never minimize or ridicule first love,” says Tucson pediatrician Dr. George Comerci. “It is a very important relationship for adolescents and it is important for another reason, as it is the first intimate relationship with someone outside the family.”
When “dating” evolves into something “formal”, it is natural to worry that things are getting very serious very soon. If you see school work starting to suffer and friendships are being pushed aside, it is reasonable to restrict the number of times “Romeo and Juliet” can meet during the school week. High school romances tend to have limited life spans. Those that last until graduation rarely survive the post-high school years. If one or both of the young people leave the house, the physical distance has a way of driving an emotional rift between them and eventually the relationship ends.
First Heartbreak: How to Help Your Teen Get Over it
The breakup of an affair can be painful at any phase of life. Still, when an adult relationship ends badly, at least the injured party knows, from having endured other disappointments, that the all-too-familiar feeling of emptiness and the veil of depression will inevitably lift.
Teenagers have not yet learned how resilient the heart is. The first time you experience a romantic rejection, the sadness may seem bottomless. Parents need to deal seriously with the feelings of a heartbroken youth.
“Breakups are one of the biggest precipitating signs of suicide in young people,” says Dr. Eagar. However, the vast majority of boys will get over the pain and be fine. Moms and dads can help the healing process by being generous with time, patience, and hugs. A little extra sensitivity helps too, because in this situation, knowing what not to say is just as important as choosing the right words.
Acknowledge your teen’s pain but reassure her that she will be happy again . “I understand how upset you are and I know you feel like your sadness will never go away. But it will, and probably faster than you think.”
Don’t use this opportunity to reveal that you never liked the unimportant new guy in the first place. Your son may be venting his anger on the girl who left him, but don’t be fooled. It will probably be some time before he gives up hope that she will realize his mistake and beg him again. Remember, too, that declining teen relationships often crop up again.
Allow your child to feel sad. Telling someone who’s feeling sad, “Hey, cheer up! It’s not that bad!” (or words like these) basically implies that you have no claim on your emotions. However, sadness that lasts for more than a few weeks may require professional counseling.
Encourage him to meet up with friends, but don’t harass him . When you’re ready to socialize, you will do so without prompting.
Share a story from your own adolescence . “In my freshman year of college, I fell madly in love with a girl named Elisa. We spent all our time together. I couldn’t even imagine being with someone else and I thought she felt the same way about me.
“One day, out of nowhere, she told me that our relationship was getting very serious and that she wanted to go out with other people. I was devastated! I was on the floor for weeks. I used to spy on her on the university campus; a few nights I would stay out from his student dormitory just to see if he would show up with someone. My friends couldn’t bear to be with me and I don’t blame them! I walked around in a bad mood and moaned for Elisa, Elisa, Elisa.