friendship

At what age should girls start dating?

It’s a question a lot of parents torture themselves over, but as this expert writes, you can’t lock you daughter away in a tower (that never ends well)

My writing buddy Nina Funnell and I have spent a busy week doing media for our new book Loveability – An Empowered Girl’s Guide to Dating and Relationships.

Interestingly, the majority of the interviews we did seemed focused on determining at what age parents should allow their children to date. Case in point – this segment on Channel Nine′s Mornings:

The facts? Whether we like it or not, as I state in the interview above (and teen Jordie confirms) young people are forming relationships at a younger and younger age and trying to ban these only contributes to secrecy. Further, young people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about relationships so we must ensure warm, wise, realistic and accessible advice is offered early.

Nina recently explained why setting blanket bans and stigmatising all relationships as being potentially dangerous is unhelpful:

“Instead of treating the sexuality of children as something to be either feared or controlled, we need to encourage open conversations about intimacy and relationships. It is also important not to demonise young people’s sexuality or interest in these topics, as this can create stigma, anxiety and shame.

It is deeply unhelpful (for example) to teach young people that the only reason why a girl might seek out intimacy or connection is due to low self esteem and a lack of self worth. This view totally disregards the desires and natural sexual urges of young women as well as the legitimate and positive experiences they may draw from relationships.”

So – how to handle this question in a positive, realistic way?

Again, I called on Nina for she answered this question for girls in the Q&A section of our book (with a little help from our go-to psychologist Jacqui Manning)  I think they nailed it:

Q. My parents think I’m too young to start dating. How young is too young?

A. Knowing the right time to start dating isn’t so much about waiting till you turn a specific age. It’s about ‘taking the time to do it right’, according to psychologist Jacqui Manning. ‘Your early relationships can really set the scene for your love future, so having good experiences now will set you up with positive expectations from your partners forever.’

Ask your parents why they think you’re too young. Ask for their advice, and ask whether they’re comfortable to share their own experiences with you. Although some girls find it uncomfortable to talk about relationships with their parents, you can get some good tips by having an honest chat with them.

Relationships can be difficult to manage when you’re still busy learning about yourself, so don’t rush into it just because it’s what other people are doing, says Jacqui. ‘The important thing to remember is to not get swept up in another person’s idea of how the relationship should be, but to establish your own values and boundaries around what’s important to you — before you enter into a relationship. That way, you’ll have a better idea of when something doesn’t feel right.’

Before dating, think about the following questions: what kind of person do I like and what sort of qualities am I looking for in a person? What are my dating boundaries and deal breakers? What would a good relationship look and feel like to me? If, after you have put some effort into thinking about what you want, you feel self-assured enough to set boundaries in your relationships, then you may well be ready to get out there.

Let’s open up dialogue – not shut it down.

Dannielle Miller is the author of  The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo: A girl’s guide to claiming her power and The Butterfly Effect: A positive new approach to raising happy, confident teen girls (Random House). Her latest book, co-written with Nina Funnell, is “Loveability – An Empowered Girl’s Guide to Dating and Relationships.” She is CEO of Enlighten Education, Australia’s leading provider of in-school workshops for teenage girls and is an avid blogger at The Butterfly Effect. You can follow her on Twitter: @MillerDannielle

 What do you think is the right age for your daughter to start dating?

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