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The teens and dating debate: What’s the right age?

Kim Grundy is a mom, writer, expert laundry folder and sandwich maker, not necessarily in that order. Raised in Oklahoma, she is now a West Coast gal and lives in California with her husband and two sons, along with one dog, two fish (oo...

First relationships

What is the right age for your teen to begin dating? Real parents and experts share their thoughts on when kids are ready to take this big step.

Teens dating

"One of the more unpleasant experiences of parenthood is dealing with your teenager's retorts: 'All my other friends' parents let them...fill in the blank'," says psychologist and clinical social worker Dr. Leslie Beth Wish. "For teens, one of the earmarks of independence is being able to go out on dates -- preferably without your parents."

so, What's the right age?

Your teen might want to date, but is she ready? "Sixteen-- and even a bit older -- is a good age for dating, provided that the teen is mature," says Dr. Wish. "Maturity can be measured by willingness to participate sufficiently in household chores, treating others with respect, getting good grades and managing emotions.'"

Mike Domitrz, parent of two teenagers and the author of, HELP! My Teen Is Dating: Real Solutions to Tough Conversations, says that 16 is the ideal age. "Almost EVERY teenager plans on being intimate with his/her partner (whether they admit it to you or not) in some form -- from kissing to potentially much more. In the majority of states, your teen cannot give legal consent to any intimacy until he/she is 16. Do NOT put your child into a situation which is inappropriate for him/her," he says.

"The problem that most parents make is waiting too late to allow their children to date," says Dr. Donna Thomas-Rodgers, who suggests allowing teens to go to group dances and supervised events at age 14, allowing them to go on group dates at age 15 and individual dates at age 16.

"When teens start at 15 years old with actual group dating you can support the child's dating choices and supervise their decisions," she says. "I saw it all throughout college. Those with very strict lives went wild in college. When you have more time with them while they are at home they don't feel the need to go overboard once they leave the nest."

Supervised versus Unsupervised dating

How much supervision should you give your teen on dates and other parties? "Some dating situations are just screaming for supervision," says Dr. Wish. "Prom night, Halloween parties, etc. should be supervised! Some parents have the following rules: No parties at homes that don't have parental supervision. No overnights or late-night parties. Wise parents do NOT aim to be liked or popular."

Bert Martinez, father of five children, said he doesn't allow unsupervised dates until the kids are 18, allowing only chaperoned or group dates at age 16.

"Remember our kids, just like we did, are fighting hormones, peer pressure, and powerful emotions. Make it easier on them by setting up rules in advance to help them get through the next few years," he says.

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