What age should kids start dating?


30, 40, never! Often the responses parents give when they think about their adorable little one embarking on the dating world, which let’s be honest, is ultimately the first step toward replacing mom and/or dad as the sole proprietor of their hearts. Though the thought really tugs at those heartstrings it is a good idea to have a conversation regarding dating early on. That way children have a clear and concise idea of what dating is, why it’s important, the main purpose, and where your household stands on the topic of dating. Otherwise, the alternative is them learning everything about dating from their peers and let’s be honest that advice ranks right up there with a dumpster fire colliding with a trainwreck at lightning speed, no amount of therapy can backpedal from that kinda catastrophic advice. So, what age should kids start dating? In order to answer that question the purpose of dating must first be addressed. Why date in the first place? 

What’s the purpose of dating?

The main purpose of dating is to look for an individual that exhibits compatible characteristics, qualities, values, morals, etc. that one would want in a spouse. It’s basically the process of interviewing potential future spouses while hopefully having a fun and enjoyable outing…it’s much easier to get to know one another while relaxed and having fun than being in an interview type setting/environment. Thus, if the purpose of dating is to look for a compatible life long partner who exhibits the characteristics, values, morals, etc. that you find to be of utmost importance at what age do you know what those are? At what age do you know yourself well enough to know what you want as an adult? Because it isn’t until you know yourself well enough to even know what you might want/need in a future spouse, thus when is that exactly?   

Because it isn’t until you know yourself well enough to even know what you might want/need in a future spouse

At the age 13, 16, 18 do you have a grasp of the way you would like your adult self, your adult life to look? Do you know what kind of lifestyle you’d wish to have? Do you want a huge house and fancy cars? Perhaps a smaller home and would like to travel? Do you want to have kids? Do you want to stay home with them? And if you want that huge house, all the kids, and fancy cars, how will you pay for everything, do you have a grasp on financial literacy? What career or trade will you embark on, will that income be sufficient for the lifestyle you want?  See it isn’t until you have your own affairs, wants, nay, dreams in order and have at least a clear path that you should even think to bring a potential spouse into the picture. For if you begin to date seriously before you even know who you are as a person you are doing not only yourself a disservice but also your potential future spouse and children. Are there consequences of dating too you?

What are the consequences of dating too young?

If you start dating too young your relationship skills, communication skills, how to handle conflict resolution, etc. are all very much lacking. However, once those neurons have been fired and that memory made on how to handle a conflict in a romantic relationship that’s a hard one to fix, remember that dumpster fire train-wreck collision? Having adults in adult relationships who learned their romantic relationship communication skills, and more specifically, their conflict resolution skills, from their 13 year-old adolescent self really explains why we have so many adults who think being passive aggressive via a silent treatment is the answer. 

We all know that during the adolescent years the frontal cortex of their brain is still developing, in fact, the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), states that, “Pictures of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. 

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

(Source)

So should we not start dating until our frontal cortex is fully developed at the age of 25? 

Well, based upon the science? Yes. In fact this is where the rental car companies got it right, they know not to rent a car to someone until that crazy frontal cortex is fully developed. However in the meantime, before you can rent a car you can make all the vital important decisions about the rest of your life…career/trade, date, marriage, have kids, etc. Thus is waiting to date until you’re 25 practical? Probably not. So what is the answer? 

Did you know that…It’s estimated over half of the marriages worldwide are arranged and that over 20 million of those unions exist in the world today, a surprising fact given that we almost never hear about arranged marriages unless we’re discussing their famously low divorce rates. (Source

Lol! Just kidding, arranged marriages aren’t necessarily the answer, but let’s be honest, it might be a whole heck of a lot easier. The long awaited answer is, I don’t know. Yep, I just went all Winona Ryder in Reality Bites on you, a reference rather apropos from my adolescent years. 

While there is no science approved perfect age for kids to start dating please heed all the references made in this post. Remember you are virtually saving your adolescent from themselves until their frontal cortex is developed. Be present. Have conversations about the purpose of dating from an early age, before they enter adolescence and continue the conversation throughout adolescents, constant reminders are helpful. And MOST importantly PLEASE raise your adolescent to know who they are…perhaps the MAIN focus shouldn’t be on dating but rather on helping our children find out who they are as individuals and who they wish to become as adults, and only then, once they know who they are can they find their counterpart. 

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