As a parent, this question tortures you, and the age appears to be getting younger. If your daughter wants to go out on a date, it probably means that she is the right age, but as a parent, you will need to set a few parameters around the outing.
THE FACT-FINDING MISSION
If your daughter is 15 or 16 it is quite possible that she will want to go to a dance or a movie with a boy. You will need to find out a bit more about the outing before you say yes. Firstly do you know the boy, you don’t want her out in his car at that age. So find out what the plan is.
- Who is the boy and how old is he.
- If possible ask to meet him.
- Where are they planning to go, a dance, pizza, movie?
- Set some rules, you drop her off and pick her up at a designated time.
- Are they going to his house, find out if his Mum or Dad is home, if they are away, she doesn’t go.
- Suggest they go out in a group.
- Sit down with your daughter and have a talk about values and boundaries. Remind her of the age of consent.
We now have the age of consent laws, and children know their rights as they seem to be constantly reinforced at school, not always helpful to a parent. In some states the age of consent is 16 in others it is 17.
Often it is hard for the parent to get transparency about the outing and what is being proposed. However, while you still have some control, insist on doing the drop-off and pick up at the agreed time, and make sure that your daughter takes her cell phone with her. If you can and it is not too far away, drop the boy off at his house on the way home, and then you will know where he lives.
Having as much information as possible is always useful, and you are going to have a few more years of worry ahead of you.
Another useful strategy is to meet up with parents in a similar situation and discuss how they handle it. For example, if your daughter has a 16th Birthday Party at home you can’t serve any alcohol, but from experience, other kids will try to smuggle it in. This can get very scary for a parent, so if your daughter is dating don’t throw a party at home, ask her to pick 10 or 12 close friends, and take them out for dinner at a restaurant. This will enable your daughter to take a date and some other close friends, and the restaurant will monitor what they are drinking and it won’t be alcohol.
After dinner, everyone goes home, or alternatively, the girls come to your house and sleepover.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I LET MY DAUGHTER DATE?
You just have to be a bit creative to get around the question, and it is not unusual to hear 12-year-olds saying that they want to go out on a date. This is too young, and a friend of mine who had this question from her 12-year-old daughter got around it beautifully by sending her on a date with her father, who agreed that she was too young to go out with a boy. This was a good move as she was able to have a conversation with her father uninterrupted by other household members. They both enjoyed the outing and will do it again.
KEEP LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN WITH YOUR DAUGHTER
- Start talking about dating early, don’t say you are too young.
- Say, relationships are difficult to manage when you are still learning about yourself.
- Ask your daughter what sort of qualities she is looking for in a man, the answer may surprise you.
- Depending on your child’s level of confidence and level of development they may or may not be ready to date.
- Be clear about your expectations with your child, and keep a close watch over what is happening.
With a first relationship, there is often heartbreak and you don’t want your child to go through this pain too early.