When and how should teens date?

Smokey asks: When and how should teens date?

I reached sexual maturity (in other words, I was all grown up) at about six months of age.  Which would be a bit early for a human.  And while I’ve had lots of play-dates with other dogs, it’s not really ‘dating’ in the way people do it.  Now that’s particularly for one reason, which is that I was spayed when I was quite young.  But even if I hadn’t been, here’s one thing I know:  It is no fun to be saddled with a litter of puppies before you’re ready.  And while people become physically able to have kiddies around 12 years old, you don’t hear of many wanting to become parents, or married, that young.

So the trick in dating is how to have fun, without moving anything too far too fast.  In fact, my sense is that the best way to go about it is to have everything move as slowly as possible!  Now that doesn’t mean stop, and it doesn’t mean move backwards, but it does mean to move s l o w l y.

For example, I’m a dog, so if you give me a beautiful seven course meal, I’ll swallow it in huge gulps.  But a human can enjoy it a lot more if they take three hours to eat it, and savor each bite.  Similarly, why not let a process that could jump from A to Z in one night stretch out and take years.  As that singer sings, “We’re on the road to romance, that’s safe to say.  But let’s make all the stops along the way.”

Now of course, that’s easy for me to say.  A twelve-year-old person knows about as much about their plans for their future as a six-month-old puppy.  So how are they supposed to know how slow is right?  Especially when their friends and their not-so-friends and the radio and tv and everything else in the world is telling them different stuff?

Tough answer on this one:  The parents really have to step up.  The teen years are an age when kids are much more interested in their peers than their parents, but Mom and Dad’s values really have to come through – and their confused kids will probably appreciate them.  The very best thing is to have a relationship where the kid feels comfortable coming to the parent to talk about things.  All sorts of things.  But even if that’s not the case, the parent should let them know their opinions on the issues involved.

So maybe you say no dating till seventh grade, and then it’s only in groups of kids, and only on weekends?  Or maybe you’re okay with it starting younger, but it has to be with the parents around?  Whatever it is, just make the boundaries clear and of course, make sure everyone is safe.

By the way, I have another piece here about how to handle your date’s advances.  Feel free to check that one out as well.

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