Dating is a naturally divisive subject for teens and parents. Adolescence is a period when young people are looking to assert more control over their lives, whereas their more experienced parents may not think they’re ready for such responsibility. Dating, at the very least, is a chance for the adolescent to decide what sorts of activities they’re interested in, what peer group they want to be a part of, and how they want to interact with those peers. Understandably, they are wary of parental meddling in such personal choices.
But the real issue is that dating represents the youth’s introduction to the public expression of sexuality. The emotional hazards surrounding sex are probably the main reason why parents don’t trust their teenagers to make smart decisions. Sex is extremely enticing to almost everyone, yet by the end of the teen years almost everyone has done things they strongly regret. Lots of people emerge into adulthood with emotional baggage from unhealthy sexual relationships in their youth, and parents want to prevent this sort of harm from befalling their children.
Teen sexuality in general is a controversial subject. Many people argue that human beings become physical capable of sex long before we become mentally capable of understanding the consequences of it. Many people disapprove of sex outside of marriage and also disapprove of teens getting married. What role, in that case, is there for teen sexuality? Is teen dating a sort of trial run or tutorial in preparation for real, adult courtship? If so, then what are these practice sessions supposed to consist of?
A further difficulty is that everyone approaches dating a little differently. People have different values, and different ways they’d prefer to get to know a potential partner. Some people prefer a formal dinner where they can impress their date with class and charm, whereas others would rather meet in a coffee shop for a casual conversation. Young people have to figure out what approach to dating they prefer. The advice of adults and peers may be inappropriate, and teenagers may find themselves in extremely uncomfortable social situations surrounding dating. But if that were not the case then we would have so much less material for romantic comedies.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What was your own experience with dating as a teenager? Do you have any regrets?
What are your opinions on teen dating? Should young people be encouraged to do whatever they want and make their own mistakes, or do you think they should be more cautious?
What’s your idea of a good date? What sort of things do you like to do? Do you prefer more formality or less?
Did you have any embarrassing dating experiences? At what point (if ever) did you learn to laugh about them?
A date is just a simple social outing, but the idea of dating brings up a whole host of conflictual subjects between parents and teens.