One frequently asked question we hear from parents: At what age should I let my son or daughter start dating? This is a tough subject for a couple of reasons. First, family traditions and convictions vary wildly, not only concerning what age is appropriate for dating but also on how dating, courting or whatever your family may call it should even be done. Some see dating as just a fun thing to do, while others see it as something that should only occur if it is a serious step towards marriage.
Today, I’m not going to focus on age or methodology to approach this question. And I’m not writing to condone one particular relationship system over another. Instead, I want to focus our thinking on some key indicators of maturity that I believe need to be in place before dating or courtship is even considered. This is not an exhaustive list. And it’s not meant to be the only consideration for this decision. But it represents an important checklist to think about before these decisions are settled between you and your young adult. Here are four tests of maturity that are important to this decision:
A Willingness to Involve Family and Friends in the Relationship
Group dates and family interaction show a mature willingness to be open with the relationship. But when there’s an unwillingness to do so, it may represent that there is, or seems to be in their minds, something to hide about the relationship. Being around family and friends frequently will also reveal the character, or lack of it, in their hearts.
A Willingness to Set Boundaries in the Relationship
Boundaries are not restricting in a dating relationship, they are freeing. Without boundaries, there is vulnerability, both emotionally and physically, that is unsafe and unhealthy. And when boundaries are set, they should also be respected. If your child and the person they are dating or courting is not willing to set or honor those boundaries, that’s a red flag.
A Balance between Not Taking the Relationship Too Seriously Too Quickly or Not Taking the Relationship Seriously Enough
It’s not often that a “first love” becomes a “one and only love” at the altar. So it’s important that your child understands up-front that they should not rush their feelings and allow themselves to build unrealistic expectations. But it’s also not healthy to be too careless and carefree about relationships either. If you see your child on either end of the spectrum…too serious or too careless…think twice before allowing them to date.
An Openness to Discuss and Answer Questions about the Relationship
Finally, your child should be willing to be held accountable for any relationship they have. If they seem open to discussing any aspect of the relationship, you can be encouraged. But if there’s a tendency to claim “it’s my life and my private business,” be cautious about allowing your child to develop the relationship.
If you’re leaning towards letting your son or daughter begin the dating or courting process, check out some of these other posts from our iMom.com website. They provide some good suggestions that will help you navigate the dating years with your teens:
What other markers of maturity do you believe are critical for healthy dating or courting? Please share your insights with others below.