Most Christian parents tend to fall into two different camps when it comes to teen dating. Some believe that dating is never appropriate and encourage their children to follow a courtship model. Others feel that dating can be a positive experience for teens provided they are mature enough and the parents know and trust the dating partner.
Before deciding how you’re going to proceed, it’s crucial to realize that contemporary dating is radically different from what it was when the majority of today’s parents were kids. Sexual promiscuity is rampant, even among Christian teens, and many young people receive little or no moral guidance from their parents. Binge drinking, date violence, and even date rape are far too common. In light of this, we would advise that boys and girls under the age of seventeen should not be allowed to go out on one-on-one dates. There are simply too many dangers associated with this kind of activity. Instead, they should be encouraged to participate in group dates with a number of Christian friends who share their moral and spiritual values. Even then, mom and dad should make sure that they are well acquainted with the other kids in the group and their parents.
Some parents may feel comfortable allowing a mature, responsible seventeen- or eighteen-year-old to go out on individual dates. It’s their call, of course, but here again we believe it’s crucial that mom and dad know their child’s dating partner and his or her parents well. They should also bear in mind that while eighteen-year-olds may be legally considered “adults,” the fact remains that many of them haven’t developed the maturity to monitor and control their own actions in a dating situation. If an older teen displays maturity, common sense, and sound moral judgment, dating can play an important role in his or her growth and development. It can also teach them how to relate to the opposite sex in a healthy way and to recognize the character qualities that are truly important in a marriage relationship.
If your child is under seventeen years of age, we’d recommend that you sit down with together and map out some specific guidelines for relationships with the opposite sex. Encourage them to mingle with both boys and girls in a mixed group setting, such as a church youth group. Talk about pursuing a commitment to sexual purity and make it clear that, for the time being, there can be no question of unsupervised dates. Then you can promise to revisit the dating question after he or she turns seventeen if your child displays the necessary signs of maturity and sound judgment at that time.
If you’d like to discuss these questions at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to contact our Counseling department.
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