Teen Love: The Pros and Cons of Having a Boo Thang
10/9/2013 11:25:00 AM
So last week data suggested kids who start dating earlier than their peers (around age 11- huh?!) may be more likely to experience behavioral issues and problems in school. Specifically, kids who get involved with romantic relationships before they’re mentally and emotionally prepared and without the support of peers at their same stage of development could turn to alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex. They’re also at greater risk of delinquent behaviors like lying, cheating, stealing, fighting and running away.
Now you and I know you can’t really date at 11 – you ain’t going nowhere! You have no license, no money…you just got a “play boo” at school! I know I couldn’t “officially” date until 16 – although I called myself having a lil’ school boyfriend. I knew he better not call my house or anything, though!
When it comes to teens and dating, there are pros and cons. As parents, we have to instill values of self- worth, empower them with healthy esteem and be able to show them what healthy relationships look like. Now, we know as adults we don’t always get the relationship-thing right so we know teens will stumble. Plus, they may go through that stage of rebellion. But nevertheless, dating is an issue most teens will face. Maybe it’s Homecoming, hanging out or an early teenage love, what do we need to know? I can think back and use examples from my own years as a knucklehead but I always like the input of some experts. Livestrong.com cites both the pros and cons of teen dating. Check them out.
One positive aspect of teenage dating is that it facilitates maturity in teens. Because of dating, teens have a better understanding of how affection and intimacy function within a relationship, according to Gateway, a publication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is dedicated to teen issues. In turn, they are better able to interact with others, distinguishing intimate feelings from companionate ones. Thus, teens grasp the power and weight of romantic feelings and gain a sense of control over them. By pursuing dating relationships, teens grow in their ability to discern lust from intimacy.
Walking the Line
Boundary setting is a potential benefit of teen dating. Boundaries are important because they determine acceptable treatment. Teens must learn how to create and negotiate boundaries so that they do not become enmeshed or abused in relationships. This particular benefit can manifest as a better understanding of what is acceptable within a relationship or by setting of standard of acceptable partners. These boundaries go on to influence adult relationships and serve as a framework for how relationships function.
Talking the Talk
Communication skills are a necessary component of relationships, which grow in teens when they date. Through communication, teens talk about their needs and demonstrate their feelings, but also listen when their partners do the same. By participating in dating, teens begin to learn how to compromise and cooperate with partners, building on important skills such as active listening and nonverbal messages. They develop the ability to resolve conflict without hostility and negotiate with their partners. By learning communication skills early, teens are better equipped to handle positive dating relationships as adults.
Drawing a Blueprint
Dating gives teens important practice in managing intimate relationships. This practice is an essential skill, which they will hone throughout their adult lives. Teens begin to develop an understanding of how intimate relationships work. They find what factors contribute to successful relationships, but also discover what they need and desire from intimate others. These early dating relationships often lead to fulfilling and caring adult romantic relationships, adding credence to this positive aspect of teenage dating, according to Education.com.
Many parents create strict rules about dating to try to keep their teens safe and it is important to know that teen dating can come with negative consequences. Here are some dangers:
Internet predators are adults who post as teenagers on the Internet and gain the trust of teens they have contact with. These people are often sexual offenders, and they promise your teen gifts, parties and other incentives to get together. Internet predators used to primarily work chat rooms, but in the new age of social media, they often have fake MySpace and Facebook accounts with convincing profile information and pictures. Teens who agree to meet these predators can be sexually assaulted.
According to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three teens will experience some form of physical dating violence in their lives. This violence could include anything from shoving to hitting to more serious violence, such as strangulation and murder. This violence is likely to be a secret, since neither the victim nor the abuser want to admit there is a problem. Strong indicators of physical violence in teen relationships are jealousy, possessiveness and angry behavior from the teen's partner. An abusive partner may try to control how the teen dresses, whom she hangs out with or what activities she participates in. Your teen may see these behaviors as a sign that her partner loves her.
Acquaintance rape (formerly known as date rape) is one of the most common forms of sexual assault. It occurs when a person is sexually assaulted by someone she knows and trusts, such as her date. Sexual assaults can also occur at parties where sexual abusers take advantage of teens who have been drinking. Teens who attend parties are at an increased risk of consuming a date rape drug, which renders them unconscious long enough to be sexually assaulted.
Pregnancy & Sexually Transmitted infections
Teens who date begin to form intimate relationships with their peers. These relationships may lead to sexual behavior. When teens aren't properly prepared to have sexual relationships, they run the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as HIV or chlamydia. Sexually active teens can also face teen pregnancy issues.
I have friends who believe teens should never date. I’ve seen some kids not date then get buck-wild in college. I have a set of friends who dated all through high-school and are married now for close to twenty years! No teen is alike and no situation is the same. As parents, we can pray for wisdom, have open dialogue with our teens and proceed in what we think is best. We all want our kids to make healthy choices and we can equip them to – even when they fail to heed our instruction. Parents plant the seed and…. are there when it’s harvest time.