Dating

It seems like just yesterday that you were holding your baby in your arms. Now your teenager is asking about dating. You know you’re not ready for this step, but is your teenager ready?  There are definitely some topics that need to be discussed with your teenager before he or she goes on a first date.

Today, most children start to date between the ages of 12 and 13 years. Dating at this age usually begins with going out as a group — for example, to the movies. Most of the interactions during this group dating occur between the same sexes. Group dating helps to ease into single dating. Though each teen is different when it comes to maturity and responsibility, as a general rule, teens are not ready for single dating until the age of 16.

No matter how old we are, everyone probably remembers the name of your first boyfriend or girlfriend and what it felt like to be in love for the first time. That first love for teens is very important to them. It’s the first intimate relationship they have with someone other than their parents.

During the teen years, it’s especially  important to keep the lines of communication open. Conversations between the teen and parent should not only be about the physical changes during adolescence, but should also include the topics of love, self-esteem and healthy relationships.

Teen dating violence does not discriminate. It occurs across all cultural, racial, socio-economic, gender and educational groups.

When one thinks of teen dating violence, what usually comes to mind is date rape. Physical violence, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and digital abuse can all be parts of teen dating violence. According the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 out of10 teenagers who are dating have experienced some form of physical violence. This number increases when you include emotional abuse. Some examples of physical abuse include hitting, slapping, shoving, strangulation, kicking, or using a weapon. Emotional abuse can include stalking, criticism, controlling what friends your teen spends time with, and threats of suicide, murder or physical violence. Harassment via social networking sites, e-mails and text messages are all forms of digital abuse.

In most cases dating can be a fun and exciting experience for your teen, but sometimes it can turn unpleasant. Parents need to be aware of signs that may indicate your child is involved in an abusive relationship. For warning signs of abuse, tips for parents, and things that you can say to help your teen open up and talk about their abusive relationship, see this excellent American Academy of Pediatrics web page.

Date rape, also known as acquaintance rape, does not involve sexual desire; it is an act of violence. The majority of these rapes are committed against females. It’s important for females to know how to protect themselves against this form of dating violence. Acquaintance rape is difficult to prove in court, because there are often no physical signs of force and no eyewitnesses. For more information about teens and sexual violence, see the web site of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Dating for your teenager should be a very wonderful experience, one that will form the basis for healthy, intimate relationships as an adult.

Terri Bailey, a Kids Plus Care Provider, is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner.