Monday, July 21, 2008

When should kids start dating?

The Kansas City Star has an interesting poll today – more interesting for the answer than the question. Participants at the mom2mom website were asked, “At what age should kids first be allowed to ‘date’?”

The answer:

A: 6th Grade (2%)

B: 7-8th Grade (8%)

C: 9-10th Grade (85%)

The results seemed to me to answer more “When do kids begin to date?,” rather than “When should kids begin to date?” Since those polled were moms, I would have figured there’d be at least a few hold-outs for a later age.

Turns out, options A, B, and C were the only possible answers. Quite a few respondents did prefer a later date in the comments posted to the poll.

Some also asked the more pertinent question, “What does ‘date’ mean?” One who voted for a younger age did so while defining dating as “Not really dating but they sit together in the lunch room at school and if they go hang out somewhere together at the mall or the movies or church youth group.”

At the other end of the spectrum, there have been several articles recently lamenting the death of dating on college campuses where the more appropriate term is “hook up”.

I like the definition offered by one of the respondents, but I fear in many places, it is operationally extinct:

“My definition of a ‘date’ is where he calls the girl, she accepts, he drives himself over to her house (preferably in his own car), picks her up from her house, obtains parental permission and lets her parents know where they are going and when she will be home, and THEN they go out on a ‘date’ which he pays for with his OWN money.”

So from a Catholic point of view, I’m wondering how Catholic Key readers view this question. At what age would you allow your children to date, and what do you mean by date?

This article from an excellent Australian Catholic website called Mercatornet offers some advice for teens and their parents about dating. It is written by a canon lawyer who is well aware of the later results of poor dating practices:

“There is a growing awareness in many families that there is a big difference between courting and dating. In my work, I regularly encounter broken marriages. Along with my own personal experience in life, these unhappy relationships have taught me a thing or two about what constitutes unhealthy teenage dating behaviour, as well as what type of courtship leads to healthy marriages. Allow me to share this advice with teenagers and parents whose teenagers are of courting age.”

Read the whole thing and please post your own thoughts below.