DENVER — At what age should kids start dating?
It’s a conversation most parents don’t look forward to having with their teens.
Therapist Leslie Gustafson visited Good Day Colorado as part of our “At What Age” series to provide some answers.
Here is what Gustafson had to say:
- The Question parents need to ask is in deciding on the age is, Can my teen date maturely, safely and respect agreed upon guidelines?
- Every teen’s individual difference needs to be considered, but we know that teens are still maturing emotionally and that their brains are still
developing into their 20’s which shapes their decision making abilities.
- The Early teen years, ages 13 -15 should be spent engaging in group activities with both girls and guys. This provides teens with the opportunity to get to know the opposite sex generally without the pressure of being in a one to one situation. Liking and crushes will happen in a group context, maybe some coupling, and that is what should be happening from a healthy sexual development stand point.
- One on One dating should be reserved for the later teen years, ages 16-18 (plus or minus a year depending on who your teen is). Teens are more equipped in late adolescence to further explore what it’s like to date. “Trying On” and practicing at relationships is the developmental goal.
Dating in these later teen years should be about learning about feelings, beginning to understand love and intimacy and discovering what one
likes or does not like in a partner. Some teens find their life partner in this stage but most do not and experience their first heartbreak.
- The most important thing when a teen begins to date is that there is a solid loving relationship with the parents where there is open communication and real dialogue about what is unfolding for the teen. This helps a teen navigate what they are going through and provides the parents an opportunity to continue to guide , provide support, education and wisdom about what the teen is going through and what should be occurring or not.