When should you let your teenager start dating?

Teenagers hang out. Teenagers text each other. Teenagers socialize in groups. So, at what age do teenagers date?

This has been a BIG topic of conversation in my home. My 16-year-old son, Garret just had his first experience with dating and decided he would rather not date right now.

Garret has had a crush on a certain girl since first grade. They now go to different high schools. Recently, they ran into each other at a sports event and she began texting him. She suggested to him they go out to the movies. Garret worked last summer and has some money saved up, so he went online and bought tickets for them.

When he came home from the date, he said, “Mom, I can’t afford to date. Between the movie tickets, the popcorn and drinks and dinner afterward, I spent a lot of money.” I suggested he find a less expensive activity for his next date, or cut out dinner afterward. After a second date, he came home and told me he likes the girl, but doesn’t want a girlfriend. He said he wants to spend his money doing stuff with his friends. Garret likes to eat gourmet food and that comes with a price tag.

Who pays when teenagers date?

When I relayed this story to some of my friends, they asked if teenage boys still need to pay for girls on dates. I think they do. Some of my friends do not agree. They think girls should pay their own way.  But because I also have a teenage daughter, I would expect a boy who asks her out to pay for her — at least on the first few dates.

My older son, Jake, has always had girlfriends. He had his first girlfriend in seventh grade. At the time, there was a lot of disagreement between my husband and I over what was the right age to let our son start dating. At 13, I felt the girl he was dating was MUCH more mature than he was at the time and worried that he was in over his head. That first girlfriend turned into a series of girlfriends. Jake worked all through high school to have money for girlfriends. We quickly realized he is the kind of teenager who is most happy when he is in a relationship.

Garret tells me many of the girls in his school want boyfriends and talk about it ALL the time. Some of them are even on dating apps. (Some of those apps teens are the ones the adults are on such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grinder)

To be honest, I’m not sure what dating or having a girlfriend or boyfriend entails in this digital age.

What are the expectations around teenage dating?

A big issue Garret confronted in his first experience with dating is the expectations around texting. “She wants to text all the time and gets upset if I don’t text her back right away,” he told me after his first date. “I just want to chill after school, not feel like I have to text someone.”

This isn’t the first time I have heard this complaint from one of my teenagers. My daughter complained about the same type of text demands in 9th grade when she got into a relationship that fizzled before it even started. Once the guy asked her out, he expected her to text him day and night. She liked it at first — until it became too much.

Of course, some teens are happy being “a thing” and having purely a textual relationship. When two people are “a thing” they’re not quite single, but rather officially dating. They’re usually texting or talking on the phone frequently. According to Garret, a lot of his guy friends in high school are having “a thing” with girls.

What is the right age for teenage dating?

teenagers dating in high school

My friend’s daughter has been texting a guy non stop and wants to go out on a date with him. It’s not clear whether he has agreed but she and her mom have had a BIG fight about it. Her mom thinks she is too young to date and wanted to know if I agreed. I definitely think some 13 year olds lack the maturity to date in middle school.

An NBC Today Show segment titled “Are They Mature Enough?” discussed survey results from a variety of parenting questions, including this one: “At what age is it okay to date?” The respondents overwhelmingly chose 16 as the appropriate age. While 16 sounds like a reasonable age, I believe each kid differs in his readiness for getting involved in relationships (it’s certainly been true in my home) so the right age to start dating is a really subjective thing.

What if your teenager doesn’t want to date?

Is something wrong with your teenager if he/she doesn’t want to date? One of Garret’s friends has told me many times he won’t date anyone until college. At first, I found that odd. But now, I get it. Some teenagers prefer to hang out with their friends in high school rather than be in relationships. Most teenagers don’t have the maturity in high school to balance both. That may be why some teenagers who “like” each other go out in groups rather than solo dates.

Still, some part of me feels like I’m doing Garret wrong as the female figure in his life by making it okay not to want to charm a girl and text her back and pay to take her out. I want him to be the guy who wants to do those things. At some point, boys need to turn into men who get up the courage to ask women out on “real” dates. However,  another part of me thinks Garret just doesn’t have the maturity yet to date or be in a relationship and I shouldn’t force him if he isn’t ready.

Please weigh in on teenage dating

Anyway, what are your thoughts on teen dating? Should teenagers wait until college to date? Am I doing my son wrong by not trying harder to encourage him to date in high school? Please weigh in on the comments below!

(feature image by https://onlineforlove.com/)

Here are some of our previous posts on teen dating that may also be of interest:

Should  a Teen Sleep Over a Boyfriend’s or Girlfriend’s House?

What is it with the lack of respect among teen boys?

Why I hate “Facebook Official”

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