Consider their emotional maturity and sense of responsibility. For many kids, 16 seems to be an appropriate age, but it may be entirely suitable for a mature 15-year-old to go on a date, or to make your immature 16-year-old wait a year or two. You can also consider what other parents are doing.
You may be surprised to hear dating labels like “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” and “together” from the lips of your sixth-grader. At this age, it probably means your son or daughter is sitting next to a special someone at lunch or hanging out at recess.
Groups play a big role in relaying information about who likes whom. Even if your son is mooning over a certain girl, most 12-year-olds aren’t really ready for the one-on-one interaction of a true relationship.
For eighth-graders, dating likely means lots of time spent texting or talking on the phone, sharing images on social media, and hanging out in groups. Some kids may have progressed to hand-holding as well. In high school, strong romantic attachments can be formed and things can get serious, fast.
I personally think that 14 is a bit young to start dating, and that 16 seems more appropriate. But first, we need to educate our kids about dating. We need to teach them about love, liking, sexuality, and emotionality. We also need to teach them about sexuality and risk-taking. It’s important to teach them about the delicate parameters of dating including when to say yes or no to physicality and sex.
We need to talk about how to judge their readiness for getting involved in relationships.
Additionally, we need to be ready to set parameters and limits about when they must be home and how often they should check in with us when they are on dates. And, this applies to both our sons AND daughters.
We must let them know that dating is complicated and that we are available to talk to them about the intricacies of dating. If we are uncomfortable talking to our kids about dating, then perhaps we need to deal with this before we allow them to date. After all, we are responsible for both the hearts and souls of our developing children.