When Should Kids be Allowed to Date?

Parents often wonder when should kids be allowed to date, and this is a complex judgment call that may be influenced by cultural practice, religious beliefs and simply, parental values. Much depends in considering whether you allow your kids to date, and at what age, and also how you define dating. Some parents have a set age in mind, and feel that kids should not be able to date until that time. Others take into account the maturity of their children and what is meant by "date," while others request that kids be allowed to go on dates only if they’ve met certain requirements or safety standards.

Some parents argue that kids be allowed to date when they get asked or ask someone to date, but research suggests you do set some limitations on age, the type of dates, and the level of supervision. The US Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, recommends that kids be allowed to date only if you know their date, possibly know the date’s family, and make sure your child understands certain rules about dating. Such rules could include the following:

    1. Your child should be able to call you at any time to be picked up from a date.
    2. No date is okay when anyone, the child’s date or another person is using alcohol or drugs.
    3. Your child is fully aware that he or she alone has the right to refuse any level of intimacy suggested by the date, whether it’s holding hands or having sex.
    4. You expect your child to honor rules regarding staying at the place where the date will take place and returning home at the stated hour.
    5. Your child agrees to never get in a vehicle operated by someone who has used either alcohol or drugs, even if that person insists they are “okay” to drive.

It’s also important considering when should kids be allowed to date that you set some rules about the types of dates kids can have. For instance, you may prefer that a child only “date” by having a friend over to your home where you can chaperone, or you may want to make sure that the child’s date is willing to provide the same level of awareness if your child is at his/her date’s home. Getting to know a child’s date, and the date’s family before the child actually goes anywhere alone with this person is a good idea.

A middle road may be reached where you allow group dates, double or triple dates or more, instead of allowing “alone” dates, or alternately when your child wishes to attend a school-sponsored activity that has some safety features built in. For instance, you may think 13 or 14 year olds are to young to date, but you might have no problem with them attending a dance held at a school where there is maximum chaperonage and no possibility of leaving the dance until it is over.

It might also be a good idea to decide “dates” on a case-by-case basis. You might not have an issue with a child dating someone who is a year or two older, but you may have huge problems with your 14 year old dating an 18 year old. Continue to assess relationships children form, and look for problem issues like a child involved in a violent relationship, which is not at all uncommon in teen dating.

In all cases, do some reading, consider the maturity of your child and what they’re actually defining as dating. To a 12 year old “dating” might mean attending a school dance and talking on the phone a lot. To a 16 year old dating may mean something very different. Whatever you decide, and especially if your rules are strict, expect that your child may call you strict and be unfriendly to your attitude. That is okay, as many therapists are fond of asserting. Your role to your child is first to be the parent and set the rules, even when they are unpopular.

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Discuss this Article

Post 12

Some parents have two set of rules too, and even the other one gets very upset about it. The one gets to go out and have fun and the other one has to stay home. I know it's part of being mature but that child doesn't see that at the time because they are teenagers.

Post 10

There is no "allowed date". Kids should be allowed to date from whatever age they want to start dating. That is not to say that dating equals a sexual relationship.

Biology works regardless of what you like or dislike, and the attraction appears at 11-15 years old, and disallowing your child to go on a date will do absolutely nothing to prevent that and will make you a hate object to boot.

Post 9

I think that kids from age 13 are mature enough and can understand the meaning of relationships a little bit, but not so properly until they are over 18, so if they really like someone very much and they think that this guy really cares about them, they can be in a relationship. But remember, do not hurry when you are in such a situation. Take your time and react properly and I think you are matured enough to be in a relationship. Am I right? So think twice and act wise!

But better to do all this when you're over 18. Good luck and the rest depends on your parents.

Post 8

I am 13 and my opinion of a relationship is holding hands, hanging out together at school, talking on the phone and maybe when you've decided he's a good guy and he deserves you, you and him can go to a movie or something. It all depends on what you raised your child to believe. You have to you make sure she knows to make sure he respects her and your boundaries. Then you shouldn't have any problems.

I personally have been told I am very mature, so it also depends on your maturity level. You have to make sure your child has a certain understanding of what is acceptable and what is best for her future. If you see

in your child this understanding and maturity then you don't really have any reason to keep your child from dating.

P.S. Never just tell your child she's too young. Explain to her why and maybe she will start to get the understanding needed to date. If you tell her that she's too young with no explanation, this probably will just lead to her defying you and dating him at school, and then she has no understanding of what is acceptable. This is much worse then trying to talk to her.

Post 7

Kids should not be allowed to date at all. Period, full stop. They should be age 21+ and independent before even contemplating a romantic relationship with another person.

Post 6

Well I think kids that are 10 and up should be dating.

Post 5

What if the kid is 12 and the date is considered holding hands at school and claiming to be dating? Like, they don't go anywhere except maybe a movie, but at least one of the parents are present. My daughter has a "boyfriend" like this. She is 12.

Post 4

Kids should be allowed to date only when they can earn their own money to pay for the date.

Post 3

@ Babalaas & Amphibious54- I agree that a child's life should have structure, but at some point, I think that a child needs to be given the opportunity to prove their responsibility. I have set and established rules with my daughter and she knows what I expect of her, but I also trust her to make good decisions. I believe that sometimes parents are strict, but they do not allow their children the freedom they earn from following the rules.

Post 2

@ Babalaas- I agree that there is no set age to allow a kid to start dating, but I do believe that it is important to get to know your child's crush. I am not necessarily a believer that you need to have a fatherly talk with your daughter's new boyfriend, but you should make the effort to meet the person, and establish the fact that you are involved in your child's life. Your kid may resist the effort, thinking that you are an embarrassment, but raising a kid is not a popularity contest.

So many parents have no clue where their kids are and whom they are hanging out with that they wouldn't know the signs to look for

when they may need help. It is important to show your child the proper way to interact socially as well as establish boundaries. I would say before allowing your child to go out and date, it would be best to have your son or daughter invite their date to the house to hang out; not necessarily to have dinner, but just an informal meet and greet. This is just my opinion, but it worked for my sister and me and we tend to have healthy relationships.
Post 1

I think that the decision on when to allow dating depends on the maturity level of your child, his or her interest in dating, and his or her knowledge of dating, intimacy, and relationships. If you talk to your children about dating, as awkward as it may be, you have the opportunity to be honest with your child.

Parents being open about discussing dating and relationships will also create an open door to allow a child to have someone to talk to about the confusion that comes with dating and (puppy) love. Making your teenager feel like they can talk to you about their personal problems will help to prevent the destructive behavior that makes the teenage years and dating so dreadful for parents.

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