When is the 'right time' for your teen to start dating?

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"The biggest danger is teens not having the skill to navigate relationships and even more than that is when teens do not have a safe adult they can talk to about their relationship," says Kate Rowe.
"The biggest danger is teens not having the skill to navigate relationships and even more than that is when teens do not have a safe adult they can talk to about their relationship," says Kate Rowe.

A lot of parents have made themselves familiar with the risks that come with teen dating, or even the developmental effects of allowing your teen to date before they are ready.  

However, parents may also want to afford their teens the freedom of gaining their own experiences instead of being told what to do.

So when is the right time to allow your teen to start dating?

News24 spoke to wellness expert and founder of Explorare, Kate Rowe, about what parents should consider when the time comes to let their teen start dating.  

"I can totally understand parents' hesitation, and caution around this, particularly in a world where children are engaging in sexual activities at earlier and earlier ages. However, it is a wonderful and natural step for kids to engage with. Supporting them to have healthy relationships is a much-preferred outcome than restricting them," says Kate.

'Dangers of dating'

With teen dating horror stories constantly creeping up on social media, parents are fiercely aware of the negative outcomes of allowing teens to date before they're mature enough to make informed and healthy decisions.

"From what I have noticed we often think that dating will lead straight into more sexual or adult activities. Perhaps we need to look at dating rather as the opportunity to learn about how relationships work and to practice and learn the skills we need for healthy relationships," explains Rowe.

However, the 'dangers of dating' depend on what parents may consider dangerous, according to Rowe.  

"I think any relationship which is manipulative or abusive is a danger not only to teens but to adults too," she says. "For me, the biggest danger is teens not having the skill to navigate relationships and even more than that is when teens do not have a safe adult they can talk to about their relationship."

The 'right time'

Though Kate does not agree that the 'correct age' for dating can be pinpointed, there are various environmental factors that need to be considered.

The 'right time' for a teen to start dating would be when they are able to understand themselves and their boundaries, among other factors. This is why parents need to support their teens in developing these relational life skills, while still teaching their teens what red flags to look out for and encouraging them to ask questions.

"Be open and honest," says Rowe. "As a parent, visualise what kind of relationship you would like your child to have and then support them to develop the skills to grow into that kind of connection with another person. Instead of focusing on what they don’t want for their child or what they are afraid might happen, focus on what they would like and what they can do to support their child to be in a healthy relationship."


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