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Are Teenagers Mature Enough for a Serious Relationship?

by Darlena Cunha

Dating is that time in your teenager's life when you wish she'd turn back into a toddler. Keeping her safe with her self-esteem intact can be a harrowing task, along with tackling questions like, "How young is too young to date?" There are ways you can cushion the transition from childhood to adult-style relationships, for both you and her. Even if you don't feel she's mature enough, you can help her get there.

Group Dates

Dr. Phil recommends starting with group dates. If your teenager is young, say 14 or 15, he'll want to start his dating journey, but may not be ready for one-on-one time. Since he can't drive yet, you're going to be involved either way. Try having your teen invite a group of his friends, couples or singles, to your home for a safe "date night." They can watch movies, eat snacks, play games and more. Give them space and let them feel as independent as they can while still under your supervision.

Set Ground Rules

Teenagers are going to want to experiment with relationships and dating, and giving a firm "no" may lead to dishonesty on the part of your teen as she struggles to fit in. Instead, try treating dating as something allowed within a certain framework. Encourage your child to call and check in, set a curfew that must be followed if dating is to be continued, have your teen invite her boyfriend or girlfriend to your home, and make sure to meet the other teenager before and after each date. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation advises negotiating these rule with your teen. Setting things in stone can lead to rebellion, they say.

Open Lines of Communication

WebMD warns that the dating world is changing along with the rest of our society and parents need to be on top of the new trends. One way to keep tabs on what's going on is to talk to your teen as often as you can without being overbearing. Make sure your teen knows that things like oral sex and "sexting" are a big deal and that they carry serious consequences. Understand that your girl may ask out as many boys as boys ask her out. Prepare her for rejection, and teach her to stand up for herself in any situation. Keep the health angle in mind, says Dr. Walter Rosenfeld, writing for WebMD, but don't alienate your teen by trying purposefully to scare her.

Signs of Maturity

There are signs you can look for that indicate maturity beyond or below your teen's years. Dr. Frank Barnhill, M.D. writes that a teen who shows pride in his possessions and demonstrates a marked effort to care for those possessions is developing a sense of independence and self-worth. Other ways that teens show maturity include giving explanations for their yes-or-no answers, using their own money to buy the things they want, looking for independent ways to improve themselves and planning for their future. When these signs start showing up, you may be able to loosen the dating reins a little bit.

About the Author

Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.

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