One of the hardest decisions for parents is childcare. We take great pains vetting anyone we leave in charge our children. No wonder it’s just as, if not more so, challenging and confusing when it comes to our children dating. That being said then, many wonder at what age should I let my daughter date?
Research suggests that children of all ages are not mentally or emotionally ready for dating. Dating can be detrimental for pre-adolescents, tweens, and even teens. Children do not benefit from practicing or experiencing the adult situations that come from or are alluded to in dating.
As parents of two adult children and two more in their teens, as well as having our own firsthand experience, we’ve dealt with dating quite extensively. I’m happy to share what we’ve learned over the years, and hopefully, provide some help to others regarding this all-important issue of daughters and dating.
- What About Dating for Daughters of Different Age Groups?
- Group Dates for Daughters
- The Takeaway for Daughters Dating?
What About Dating for Daughters of Different Age Groups?
When it comes to what age to let your daughter date, parents need to be informed. From research that highlights alarming statistics of teen pregnancy and dating violence to the mental stress for teens ill-equipped to deal with adult situations, consequences of underage dating are often negative.
Varying milestones are met as children move through different stages of growth. But as children mature, should that change parents’ approach to their children dating? Does dating look different, then, for daughters of different age groups?
Dating is different for daughters of different age groups. Parents should take an informed approach which includes research that details the high-emotional costs of dating for adolescent daughters from tweens to late teens. For daughters entering young adulthood, dating has a more targeted purpose.
Research provides a detailed explanation of cognitive and emotional developmental changes children experience as they grow. This, along with other informative research and personal experience, is what we’ve used to guide our approach to teen dating for our daughter and other three children.
Is Pre-Adolescent Dating A Good Thing For Daughters?
Pre-adolescents are those children under age 10. Many of us are surprised to learn that dating would pop up as an issue this early on, but it’s true! So is pre-adolescent dating a good thing?
Even the hint of pre-adolescent daughters dating should be avoided. Not only are pre-adolescent children not developmentally ready for relationships, but consequences of it can be life-scarring. Even play acting of daughters having boyfriends is not healthy because of its grooming effect.
From early on, it seems society is fascinated with grooming our daughters to date, or at least with the idea of daughters dating. For example, how many of you have seen baby onesies that say ‘Daddy said no dating’?
Does anyone seriously think infants or toddlers are dating? No, but by fixating on it early on, daughters are groomed to thinking they will be ‘soon’ dating in the future and daddy/parents won’t like it. And we all know that one way to make something enticing, is to label it forbidden fruit.
Likewise, children’s programming grooms daughters for dating.
From princesses like The Little Mermaid’s Ariel ‘running’ away from home for a guy she met once to Frozen’s Anna ready to marry the first villain who can carry a tune to Pearl’s dating antics on SpongeBob Squarepants, little girls are bombarded with idealistic, unrealistic, and unhealthy expectations of relationships.
It is no different with children’s sitcoms, either.
Should 10-12 Year-Old Tween Daughters Date?
Tweens are often eager to flirt and form couple-type relationships. It’s a way for them to prove they’re growing up, and by this age, dating has become normalized through media and social grooming. In that case, should 10-12 year-old tweens date?
Just like in pre-adolescence, tween daughters dating should be avoided. Though tweens have been conditioned to think dating is acceptable (and will challenge boundaries), it continues to be unhealthy, risky, and negatively life-altering. Parents should remain firm and confident against it.
Parents of tweens should be cognizant and vigilant about messages of dating that surround their children daily. TV shows, music, even young adult lit all center on love themes, providing ideals that are quite dangerous.
Just look at Kidz Bop, a music company that takes popular adult music and changes it to so-called, kid friendly lyrics. The Washington Post even called Kidz Bop “the go-to of tot music.” But is it truly kid (tot, tween…) appropriate?
For example, the song, Savage Love by Jason DeRulo, was Kidz Bop-adapted. Yet, both versions have phrases such as “If I woke up without ya, I don’t know what I would do” and “I just found out, the only reason that you lovin’ me was to get back at your ex-lover.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my tween daughter singing about ex-lovers, let alone my toddler!
With a cursory search of Kidz Bop tunes on YouTube, you’ll see that the theme of dating is pervasive, not just in the lyrics but in the party-scene videos, too. Kids under 12 are shown dancing, coupling, and acting in an otherwise mature manner as they dance and sing to supposedly kid-appropriate songs.
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- When Parents Say- I Love My Daughter, but I Don’t Like Her
- Family More Important Than Friends? (Friends Are Overrated)
- 16-Year-Old Dating 13-Year-Old? Is It Appropriate?
What About Dating for Mid-Teens Daughters of 13, 14-16 Year-Olds?
By the time our daughters are 13, 14, or 16, they’ve encountered messages and images about dating in some form or another for years. It’s no wonder it’s become almost a milestone, right of passage. So what about dating for mid-teens of 13, 14-16 year-olds?
Despite becoming common to the point of an adolescent milestone, parents should remain firm about not letting daughters date. Concerns of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, as well as the emotional and mental stress associated with underage relationships, make teen dating not worth it.
Effects of teen pregnancy are monumental. In 2008, Urban Institute Press published an update on 1997’s in depth look at teen childbirth called Kids Having Kids. The original study, as well as the update, depicted the extensive reach of teenagers having babies.
“associated with long-term poverty, low educational attainment for both mother and children, and risks for children are increased health problems, incarceration, bearing a child as a teenager, and facing unemployment as a young adult.”Jacqueline Corcoran, Virginia Commonwealth University
Though teen pregnancy has been on the decline since the mid-90s, the US rate of teen childbirth is still highest among other developed areas. Nonetheless, the lower rate of birth doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in sexual activity.
According to Office of Women’s Health, reasons for lower pregnancy for teens include higher use of birth control methods, as well as more elective abortions. Emotional, mental, and physical problems are also on the rise, being proportionally related for young women.
Besides negative consequences of teen sex (highly connected to teen dating) like STDs and pregnancy, there are other significant concerns that should help parents stand firm when saying ‘no’ to daughters dating. One of those being the emotional and mental stress teens encounter.
The CDC has stated that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds. Teens are much more likely to experience violence and abuse if they have been dating, too. We’ll tackle that in our next section more in depth.
Do You Even Have A Say About Late Teen Daughters Dating?
Now that we’ve covered the prevalence of teen dating messages throughout a child’s life, it’s understandable how most parents feel they have no say about their daughters in their late teens dating! However, I’m here to tell parents, don’t give up, or give in! You do have a say about your late teen dating!
Contrary to popular opinion, parents can say no to their late teen daughters dating. Teens from 17 to 19 years old are still emotionally ill-equipped to handle the mature themes involved in dating. Research has proven crucial parts of the teen brain are not developed until after age 24.
These crucial areas of the brain are what’s needed for monitoring decision making, problem solving, and impulse control. With this still underdeveloped and lacking, you can see how teens are not cognitively prepared for dating, either.
Once a child is 18 they are considered an adult in most countries around the world. This doesn’t mean that you have to give your assent to what they are doing. Recreational dating is simply not a ‘thing’ in most all of history. Parents do not have to agree with current trends.
For 17 year old daughters you can take away access to internet, school attendance (home schooling – our kids received scholarships to college through homeschooling), driving, and much more. As long as 18 and older daughters live under your roof, you can do the same thing.
These are our daughters, their well being is more important than them saying they ‘like’ their moms and dads.
Now let’s take a look at what research shows from allowing teens to date!
A Canadian study found that violence in teen relationships is not unusual and a teens’ high propensity to victim blame makes them being in an abusive relationship even more detrimental.
Another study, from 2013, comprised of 1,143 teens aged 13 and 14 corroborated this information. Shockingly, 45% who had been in a dating relationship reported being victims of abuse or violence from it.
TV sitcoms (and other media) continue to push teen dating, too. 8 Simple Rules is just one of many popular shows that take teen dating for granted. The premise is about a dad begrudgingly dealing with his teen daughters’ dating life.
Star Kaley Cuoco played his eldest daughter. While the character she played was in Cuoco’s words, “a little hot 16-year-old“, Cuoco was only 17 herself when she began playing the role. I think anyone with eyes can agree Cuoco was sexualized in real-life in the guise of character development.
Though Cuoco admits at her first meeting with Ritter, he took off his jacket, put it over Cucuo’s shoulders, and said, “Don’t ever dress like this again.” Unfortunately, judging by future episodes, Cucuo continued to dress provocatively as ‘Bridget’, whether it was her decision or due to someone else’s pressure is unclear.
What is clear, however, is that the sexualization of teen girls is pervasive in our culture and extremely harmful for girls’ well-being and future place in society. Our daughters are not objects and objectifying women is not empowering, but demeaning in the strongest sense.
Since this is often paired with teen dating, problems abound for girls in particular.
Here are my ‘8 Simple Tips’ for Parents of Teen Daughters Dealing With Dating:
- Don’t take it for granted that dating is ‘a given.’
- Keep firm in your parenting role.
- Use research to support your stance, but remember you set the rules as parent.
- Remain calm even if your daughter is prone to emotional outbursts.
- Monitor YOUR DEVICES that your child is borrowing and what messages she’s hearing from outside forces. (This means it’s okay and even expected to have ‘her’ passwords or use monitoring devices.)
- Know her friends and supervise, supervise, supervise. You’re not a stalker; you’re the parent!
- Let her earn your trust. So give her limited independence.
- Keep communication open, even when she is moody and doesn’t want to talk. Don’t let her hide behind sulkiness.
Daughters Dating In Early Adulthood is Much Different
Now when it comes to early adulthood daughters, it’s time to take a much different stance on dating. How is dating different for your 20, 21-25 year-old daughter, then?
Dating for young adulthood daughters is not only permissible but it is expected and healthy. At this age, your daughter is emotionally and cognitively more equipped for a romantic relationship. Yet, she continues to need guidance, advice, and support, so parents should keep that in mind.
Many may think (especially your daughter) that parents should butt out at this point and let go of the reins or ‘cut the cord’ in parenting their young adult daughter. However, as parents of adult children we know that this is often the time when your children need you the most.
No, for the most part, they don’t have basic life needs from you like an infant. They can feed themselves; they can bathe themselves. Though many are still in college at this age and don’t have employment to pay for their own room and board, they know how to seek shelter in a storm, right? However, I’m not referring to that.
Young adults are more likely to start making major life decisions…decisions that can have a monumental impact on their future (and even yours!). Whether it’s dropping out of college, enlisting in the military, or getting married (or all three!), young adults need their parents’ wisdom before making big decisions.
Dating is one of these areas in which parents should still be involved in their children’s lives even if it’s a bit more hands-off. It’s not likely you as the parent have control over who your young adult daughter will date, but you should still communicate expectations and advice.
After all, no one cares more about your young adult daughter’s well-being than you!
So even if your daughter doesn’t want to hear it, or modern mores say you should butt out, don’t stop being your child’s parent, especially in the most important decision of her life (finding a “life partner”, i.e. husband). She needs you now more than ever!
Tips for Parenting Your Young Adult Daughter in Dating:
- Share your dating experience, especially how you and your husband met and fell in love. She needs good role-model stories!
- Discuss safety. From meeting in public places to personal self-defense, your daughter should be aware of how to protect herself.
- Be clear about expectations. Dating is not simply for fun; it’s to find a life-partner.
- Enlist your clergy or religious support network. I know from experience the Catholic Church has explicit programs for young adults about relationships.
- Be firm, but calm. Even when your daughter is hurtful (because it will happen as she naturally challenges your role), try not to let emotions cloud your communication.
- Keep in mind your daughter’s choice is hers, not yours. Unless her choice is unhealthy or harmful, don’t pass judgment on her as a person. Though, your opinion on her actions is important and necessary.
- Above all else, stay the course. You’re the parent, not the friend.
Group Dates for Daughters
Many may argue that group dates are okay for tweens or teens because of the idea that there’s safety in numbers. So what should parents know about group dating for their daughters?
Group dates are not better for children. From pre-adolescents to tweens to late teens, group dating still holds many of the same risks and negative consequences. Children are not mentally or emotionally ready for the issues common to dating, thus the idea the group dating as safer is non-applicable.
Group dates became more common around the early 2000s and have grown in popularity due to social media making it normalized and well-known. It’s also been touted as a built-in safety net, especially for girls, as if nothing dangerous can happen in a crowd. This is not true.
In Japan, group dating is extremely popular, more popular than typical 1:1 dating, and is called gōkon. Yet, there’s also an undercurrent of sexualization of young girls in the Japanese culture, as reported in a detailed article by the Jakarta Post.
As well, most teens today date in some form of group setting, and despite this ‘safety net’, teens overwhelmingly say they’ve experienced abuse while dating (Source: CDC). So does it seem safe, or safer?
Is It Okay For Your Adolescent Daughters To Group Date?
The issue of teen dating is often first broached as a group event, especially for younger teens or adolescents. This makes parents wonder, is it okay for your adolescent daughters to group date?
Group dates are not appropriate for adolescents and parents should be cautious to allow it for their daughters. Group dating holds the same risks and problems as 1:1 dating for teens, and by permitting it for adolescents, parents unwittingly set their daughters up for problematic situations.
Many parents organize boy-girl play dates for their adolescent daughters, thinking it’s an innocent alternative to early dating. However, this is actually detrimental.
It models early dating situations, putting children in an environment that can quickly escalate to mature themes beyond their ability to control. Parents might intend to offer a safe place to nurture benign childhood friendships, but these situations are often where boundaries are first crossed.
Is Group Dating Better For Teens?
Again, the most common reason for group dating is safety, even for older teens. So, is safety a valid reason to make group dating better for teens?
Group dating is not better for teens. Often parents think group dating is better for their teen daughters, but that is false. The same inappropriate situations arise and just because other children with unformed consciences and brains are there doesn’t mean problems are mitigated.
It’s become normalized for parents to host group dates for their children, thinking it’s better to have them to be among many friends as well as in a safe setting such as their home. Parents should not be fooled.
Kids can get into just as much trouble under the same roof as their parents as they can outside the home. This is because parents most often aren’t in the same room as the kids when the group functions are happening.
A LOT can happen downstairs in the den while mom and dad are upstairs in the kitchen!
Teens who are in a group dating situation are just as likely to experience abuse, bow to peer pressure, and/or end up in compromising situations that can have life-altering effects. Sometimes, group dating is even worse!
So, parents should not feel like they need to allow group dating as a safe alternative to regular dating. Just be the parent, and say no, either way!
The Takeaway for Daughters Dating?
I suppose at this point it’s clear that the surprising age for daughters dating is ‘young adult’ when they are ready and able to make live decisions with the ‘forever man of their dreams’. Before then he should stay in those dreams where he belongs.
Though this is in contrast to what’s popularized in modern society, it truly is something we feel strongly about and urge parents of daughters to think critically and cautiously on the issue. Your daughter deserves nothing less!
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