You always knew the time would come for your daughter to go on her first date; maybe you didn't think it would be quite so soon. A recent article by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the average dating age is much lower than it used to be, 12 1/2 for girls and 13 1/2 for boys. Because your daughter’s first date may be an unexpected event for you, it’s important to carefully consider your parenting role in this situation.
Be excited for her. This is an exhilarating moment in your daughter’s life. She’s experiencing feelings of liking someone romantically that are being reciprocated. It’s a true turning point in growing up, and she will likely be happy about it when she tells you. Don’t react in a negative way, even if her announcement makes you angry, anxious or sad about how fast she’s growing up. Instead, tell her that you’re happy she’s found someone she likes that much, and that you’re looking forward to meeting this person.
Ask to meet her date. Meeting her date can help you feel calmer about who your daughter is spending time with. You might set up a time to meet her date before their date, by asking if he or she can come over to dinner in advance. Or you might ask that her date pick her up at your house so you can spend some time getting to know him or her before the couple leaves the house. Your daughter is likely to be nervous about having her date meet her parents, so frame this as a time to get to know the other person rather than as a time for judgment.
Set clear, appropriate boundaries. If you feel that your daughter is too young to date yet, set a rule about her dating age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends letting girls go on one-on-one dates around age 16. Consider allowing her to go on group dates with friends, or low-key dates chaperoned by parents, while she’s still young. If your daughter is old enough to go on a bona fide one-on-one date alone, discuss whether or not she will have a curfew and what is a reasonable time for her to be home. Ask her to let you know where she and her date are going so that you don’t have to wonder where she is. Discuss all these things with her ahead of time, and keep your boundaries consistent.
Trust her. Once your daughter starts dating, she has passed a threshold from childhood into adolescence. Now she has a significant private life, and she’s developing important relationships outside of her family, maybe for the first time. Trust that your parenting thus far has given her tools to build healthy and nurturing romantic relationships. Remain open to communication with her, but respect her privacy as well. Your trust in her will make her feel like she can confide in you.
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Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.