"But I didn't start dating until I was 18," says Mom. According to one survey, nearly half of teens between the ages of 11 to 14 years old are dating.
With this knowledge of the dating scene, why would anyone allow their tween to start dating?"Teenagers often wonder two things: how to date and what a healthy relationship is," says Jennifer Connolly, Ph D, Director of the La Marsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution at York University."Parents should take an active role in teaching and helping their kids understand what normal dating behaviours are." By understanding what "healthy" dating is at this age, parents can set limits and protect their child.At the end of the day, "it's better than saying they shouldn't date at all." "What is healthy is being in a group of boys and girls and transitioning from same-sex-only groups into groups in contact with the other sex," says Connolly.Groups can offer a safe, protective way for kids to learn.
But at the same time, parents need to discuss not going too far too fast.Putting limits on what kids can do gives them time to understand in a more relaxed and informal setting, while giving them the confidence and skills they will need to move away from group settings.Like adults, most kids think their peers are having more sex than they actually are.Connolly points to the reality that few kids actually rush onto the dating scene.Instead, they spend time in casual group contexts where boys and girls are together.There is interest, but they are not coupled up, which is normal.