The Age of Innocence
To date or not to date: Who answers that question?
Question: My 13-year-old daughter wants to start dating. I refused her request – she’s only 13! I didn’t start dating until I was 17. We’ve talked about what happens to boys and girls in adolescence, but we haven’t had a real talk about sex yet. Is it time? – Concerned Parent
Yes – have that talk! However if you’ve just said “no” to dating, then there may be some resistance to hearing mom’s sex talk! You need to have some bonding time, first doing things with your daughter that she enjoys and where conversation flows naturally. Then, both of you won’t feel so awkward.After some relaxed conversation raise the issue of her desire to date and tell her you felt panicked when she made the request because your own experience had been so different. Tell her you’d be interested to know what she thinks dating means for kids today. Truly listen without passing judgment. It could be that you are happy for her to go out in a group with an adult
present, rather than alone on a date. A sex talk isn’t just about the mechanics – it’s also about relationships and pleasure. Share with her your values about the importance of sex in a
serious relationship and the emotional and physical consequences if there is insufficient respect for yourself and others. Explain that sexual desire and pleasure is normal and desirable. Be genuinely interested in your daughter’s thoughts about sex. Teens feel more in control and prepared with positive messages than “just say no” methods. Parents with younger children should use any natural opportunity to answer questions their child has about sex. Sex education begins with self-respect.
Never make them feel ashamed of their bodies or their desire to know. They may ask, “Where did I come from?” when they are 3 or 4 years old. Ask at your school for appropriate books for children and parents. Remember, the less they know, the more curious they become!”
Dr. Ariane Kininger
Clinical and health
psychologist for the
German School of Beijing
There is no one appropriate age for teenagers to start dating, because every teenager is different – it’s a unique decision to be reached together by parents and teenagers. Some teenagers start dating at the age of 12, and some adolescents decide to wait and date later. Even though teens are young, one can only imagine that they go to parties, watch movies and engage in other normal dating activities. And although you might not want to know about it, they hold hands, kiss each other and sometimes, even more.You are the one who knows your daughter better than anyone else. Don’t feel pressured by community norms which you feel are inappropriate. Deciding when to allow your child to date is one of the biggest decisions parents can make. The fact is that teenagers these days do have sexual experiences at an early age, and it’s very important that they are aware of safe sex, physical or emotional results (pleasant or unpleasant), sexual diseases and consequences such as pregnancy. It’s important to talk to your daughter to find out her level of maturity (emotionally and psychologically) and her ability to be responsible for her behavior. Try to have an honest talk about dating, relationships, sex, emotions, fears (yours and hers) and don’t feel embarrassed by questions that might come up. Try to trust your daughter and win her trust. Together, set rules about dating (even though you should have the final say) – whom she is with, where they can go, and curfew. Don’t forget to set consequences. If she decides to break the rules, follow through on the consequences without fail. Teenagers need to talk about sex and need someone who can answer their questions. Ideally, that person should be you. The more comfortable you feel in this discussion, the more comfortable your child will feel discussing this with you.