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  1. #1
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    Parenting Question re: Dating

    I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts about how to deal with issues regarding romantic relationships and sexual awareness as children grow up.

    It seems like some kids start dating at *very* young ages. Some of it doesn't seem all that serious, but there are times when parents are aware of it, but don't really monitor what the kids are doing when they are together. And sex ed starts so young now it seems. I realize the point is to get the info out there before they become active, but it also exposes kids to very sexually explicit material at increasingly young ages.

    So what age do you think dating is appropriate, and under what circumstances? Do you allow only group dates, chaperoned dates, or do you let your kids work it out for themselves? How much oversight do you provide, and do you adjust that at certain ages?

    And I'm curious how parents deal with the topic of sex. Do you rely on schools to handle that topic, and at what age do you think sex ed is appropriate? Do you give permission (tacit or explicit) for your kids to become sexually active while minors? Do your kids talk to you about such stuff? If you teach your kids to wait, how do you convey that and how successful was/is it?

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    This isn't a serious response, but http://theoatmeal.com/pl/senior_year/sex_ed

    I think the FIRST thing you need to teach kids is self-respect, especially for girls. I'm not sure if most girls who become sexually active young are really ready for it. A lot of times they're coerced into it. I'm not even referring to rape, but coercion by peer pressure or feeling that they're not normal if they haven't had sex by _____ age.

    I've never heard another woman say that they should have lost their virginity earlier. Usually it's the other way around.

    For my parents, sex was a taboo subject and we never talked about it ever, but one thing they did do right was teach us how to value ourselves beyond how sexually attractive we were. And yeah, we certainly knew about porn and explicit rap songs and where babies really came from and such. We were smart enough not to just go out and emulate it. Both my sister and I didn't lose our virginity until our 20s, with long-term boyfriends. I didn't date until college (if you could call it "dating" since I've only had 2 boyfriends ), but my sister dated in high school.

    Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable sending my kid out on a one-on-one date until they were in high school. Before then, they're just too malleable by peer pressure and "what's cool" without really considering the consequences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    I think the FIRST thing you need to teach kids is self-respect, especially for girls. I'm not sure if most girls who become sexually active young are really ready for it. A lot of times they're coerced into it. I'm not even referring to rape, but coercion by peer pressure or feeling that they're not normal if they haven't had sex by _____ age.

    I've never heard another woman say that they should have lost their virginity earlier. Usually it's the other way around.
    Silly question, but how does one teach self-respect?

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    We had a hard fast rule in our house for our twins that there would be no one-on-one dating until they turned 16.
    Prior to any one-on-one dates, there had to be "hanging" with friends which would include the interested parties. We expected this hanging out to happen for at least a few months, more when they were younger. We felt it was important that our children learn to be friends with someone before their feelings turned to romance with that person.

    It has worked well. Daughter hung with a group of her friends and in that group, a young fellow expressed his interest in her but she told him of our rules and how she wished to follow them. About 1 week after she turned 16, he formally asked if he could date our daughter. We gave permission but explained that they would need to begin it with some group dates - which usually included her twin brother. We also explained that we expected him to visit with her here at home and that there would not be any times she would be riding in the car alone with him until they were OKd for one-on-one dating. There were also other ground rules laid out to the young man that we expected him to follow. He said he was OK with them.

    After they dated for about a month, we gave the OK for one-on-ones so now it's late August. By Christmas they were all over as he "dumped" her with what seemed llike his parent's insistence. Something to do with what he wanted to buy her for Christmas and how he was moving too fast. To this day, we still don't know what he wanted to buy for her but they are still distant friends.

    She's been in a relationship with another young man for almost 2 years and we gave him the same ground rules when they started to date. They try to push the limits and we push back but only with the thoughts of what is good for our daughter. Now that she is away at school (in Halifax), she still careful about the choices she makes and knows that when she comes home that home rules still apply.

    As for our son ... well there have been a few girls he has liked but they haven't felt the same way; another couple that he dated for a short while and each time he started by hanging with them amongst other young people or bringing them here. Unfortunately, both of them went by the wayside and he's "not looking" but he is wishing he had someone special in his life. I keep telling him it will happen and to be patient. In the meantime, he needs to be a good friend.
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    ^^^^ You are my hero! Brilliant, Courageous, and Principled.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cupid View Post
    Silly question, but how does one teach self-respect?
    Not entirely sure since I'm not a parent myself. But from my experience, we learned how awesome it felt to accomplish something on our own. A job well done was something to be proud of, no matter what it entailed. We were also taught to trust our own standards and keep them high. We were worth something beyond what others thought of us. This went beyond even "you're only worth something if you're smart" which is what a lot of Asian parents fall into. Although, I did have an existential crisis in college because my intellectual self-esteem took a major hit. I'm much better adjusted now.

    Our parents also set a good example. My parents are always working on small projects just for themselves. They've also kept a low profile and try not to "keep up with the Joneses" even though they're probably the richest people on their block. It probably helps that my mom is a major tomboy - I sometimes wonder if my shopaholic aunt had daughters, what they would be like.

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    I think one way you teach a child self-respect is for us as parents respect our kids.

    Example: When the mom wants to "hang" with her friend, who has a kid the same age......the kids are expected to be thrilled to "hang". Maybe the other child isn't nice. Why do we expect our child to like our friend's child because it is convenient for us.

    Also, birthday parties, play dates, etc............sure kids should learn to be inclusive, but not everyone needs to be invited. Kids are pretty good at knowing what is comfortable and what isn't....and we can go a long way in teaching them to respect themselves by respecting them.
    DH - and that's just my opinion

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    And sex ed starts so young now it seems. I realize the point is to get the info out there before they become active, but it also exposes kids to very sexually explicit material at increasingly young ages.
    Except I don't think sex ed really starts all the much younger these days. We got our first sex ed lecture in 4th grade, IIRC, and that was in the 60s... which was 45-50 years ago.

    Anyway, with my son, it was never much of an issue. He's a sensible dude and open about what is going on with him. He started having "girlfriends" in Junior High but it wasn't serious at all. We let him go on "dates" but they consisted of us picking the girl up and driving them to the movies and then picking them up when the movie was over. I never worried he was ducking out of the movies to have sex as the kids would barely kiss good-bye and it was all very chaste and innocent.

    We knew when that changed and when he became sexual active. He was in HS and was mature about it for the most part. There was one incident where he wasn't sensible but he immediately came to me for advice and was responsible about it from that point onward.

    Mini-Mac OTOH is going to be a handful. She wants desperately to be more grown-up than she is. Yet is completely afraid of sex and embarrassed by any talk that remotely even reminds her of sex. I did get her some books about sex ed when she was younger and she has read them but I have no idea what she thinks about most of it and I'm worried she has all sorts of dumb ideas about how it all works.

    We declared pretty early on with her that she couldn't go on 1-on-1 dates until she was 16, only group dates until then. We've already had incidents where we had to take away privileges due to her doing dumb stuff (talking to older guys online, for example) so there is a basic lack of trust. She is already trying to talk us into letting her go on 1-on-1 dates and she's 12.

    We let her have access to social media but with conditions and I pay attention when she talks about what she's up to to make sure something isn't going on that I should know about but don't.

    I will tell you one issue we have with her that you don't mention that I think is part of this.... sleep overs. Mini-Mac's friends have lots of sleepovers and it's not all girls. I told her no closed doors when boys are in the room but her response is "he's gay". (And, he is.) Okay... but that doesn't mean he and/or she won't be curious and won't experiment. Also, just because it's a bunch of girls doesn't mean there isn't some sexual experimenting going on either. OTOH, I understand they want to go into the room and shut the door and talk without parents listening in. So I haven't figured out exactly how to do deal with this one.
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    My parents didn't allow me to start dating until I was 16. I think that was sensible looking back.

    Of my friends, I was the only one who was still a virgin at high school graduation. I was fine with that, and frankly I'm glad I didn't have sex in high school. You think you're "in love" with your HS girlfriend or boyfriend, but 95% of the time, you aren't. I wasn't looking back, and you're right, a lot of girls do feel pressured to have sex because its "fashionable" and the "adult" thing to do - and a lot of girls do love their boyfriends and want to show them.

    I was 18, almost 19 and in my freshman year in college when I lost my virginity. I know personally I wouldn't have been ready for it 3 or 4 years earlier.

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    I took the sex ed course at EMU, actually. And the suggestion there is that it starts very early - like, elementary school - but that for a long time the purpose is only to promote a healthy body image and explain changes.

    Girls hit puberty early these days. I was only 10, and several girls hit it before I did, some as young as 8, 9. Sex ed at that age is to try to make all people - but girls in particular - comfortable with the changes and comfortable with themselves. Of course, in many places sex ed isn't allowed until they are much older (because SEX IS BAD) so that never happens.

    It's proven that comprehensive sex ed helps inhibit sexual activity and unwanted pregnancy. I say start it early, because, as you say, kids are having sex by age 12, and get all the information out there so that when kids make bad decisions, they at least have some information that might stop them from making a bad decision worse. As soon as they hit middle school. And it has to be truly comprehensive to work. Abstinence-only doesn't do a thing.

    My parents never set any rules about dating. I wasn't interested anyway, and I had my first date last October, and am fine with that. My sister, on the other hand, probably needed a much harsher set of rules (or, you know, rules at all), but what's done is done... sigh...

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    All 3 of my kids did the group thing throughout high school, TG, and I wouldn't have survived as a parent if they had dated individually. Each of them, with their varying personalities, handled college dating differently, one dated around, one got serious, and one got very serious. First two have been fabulously married over 12 and 10 years, 3rd is re-dating college bf after a two year break, have been together again for almost a year, and I am still not sure it's a good thing, she obviously is enamored but I am not sure he is a good long term candidate, so it doesn't always get better as they get older.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    So what age do you think dating is appropriate, and under what circumstances? Do you allow only group dates, chaperoned dates, or do you let your kids work it out for themselves? How much oversight do you provide, and do you adjust that at certain ages?
    I don't want to talk too much about specifics here because I think my children have rights to privacy, but I will say that among my children and their friends, the expectation seems to be that one can begin to go out in groups in late middle school and can begin dating one-on-one around age 16, although groups are still considered good things. My kids' friends tend to be pretty conservative, careful kids with pretty conservative, careful parents. There are always curfews and rules and chaperones at parties.

    We never developed any sort of rules about it and just kind of took things as they came. But that seems to be the general mindset among the parents of our kids' friends; that is what they all expect and so that's what their kids expect, too. And since we're generally okay with that, we've just gone with it.

    My kids' friends all tend to take school very seriously (even if my kids themselves don't) and all of them have the vague idea that getting too involved in high school would be a mistake, as they all plan to go away to college. I figure this is because none of them has really fallen hard yet. Yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    And I'm curious how parents deal with the topic of sex. Do you rely on schools to handle that topic, and at what age do you think sex ed is appropriate?
    I started my kids on sex ed as soon as they started asking questions, which was very young. I did try to scale things to age. By the time they got sex ed in school (fifth and sixth grade), it was all old news.

    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    If you teach your kids to wait, how do you convey that and how successful was/is it?
    Again, I don't want to go into specific details on this one, but I will say that the school always pushes abstinence. My son was very shocked when I told him that I didn't expect him to wait until he was married . He told me that that was not a very parental thing to tell him, but I DON'T expect him to wait until he's married. Statistically speaking, kids his age now are not likely to marry until they are nearly 30, if at all. I told him that if he waited that long, I would assume he had no sex drive. It's so cute that he still blushes. I told him, very bluntly, what I did expect of him. And that's all I want to say about that. It hasn't come up with my daughter, who thinks boys her age are too stupid to bother with.

    In terms of how successful it is, well, again, the school pushes abstinence and, in general, this a town where the parents are conservative, strict, and fairly to strongly Christian. The kids in school here pretty much fall into the national average; most teens lose their virginity at 17 but are up to, um, other things a year or so before that, and STDs are pretty common.

    I think that the best way to get your kids to wait is to lock them in their rooms until they graduate from high school. Otherwise, your best bet is to keep them focused on the future and busy, and teach them to think before they act and to take responsibility in all things.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    I think the FIRST thing you need to teach kids is self-respect, especially for girls. I'm not sure if most girls who become sexually active young are really ready for it. A lot of times they're coerced into it. I'm not even referring to rape, but coercion by peer pressure or feeling that they're not normal if they haven't had sex by _____ age.
    Another subject that should be stressed is the signs that one's SO is a possible abuser. And, once you know the signs, being strong and assertive enough to be able to draw that line once the very first sign is exhibited, and say "ENOUGH!"

    I know for me, I have no tolerance whatsoever for any guy who would try to control who I associate with, or act jealous when I talk to or dance with guys he doesn't know. Being a contra dancer I associate with a lot of guys obviously, and contra dancing IS my version of "clubbing" or hitting the bars, only I'm not there to hook up with anyone. In fact, going to a dance would be my litmus test for a possible bf, because if he can't handle me being constantly asked to dance (or doing the asking, as it happens both ways), than he won't be able to handle a relationship with me.

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    Second hand info, but my brother's kids weren't allowed to 1 on 1 date until they were juniors in HS. My brother was pretty frank about sex and started talking to his kids about possible issues when they started middle school. Stuff like why oral sex is a bad idea, why having sex without a condom was a bad idea, and the unfortunate reality that most of the kids in school will know when you do have sex. My s-i-l talked to my niece about suggestive clothing and how it could cause unwanted attention from weirdos. Sexting wasn't an issue then, but I'm sure they would have talked about it if it was. Both kids were pretty responsible.

    They had 3 "death sentence" house rules that would result in indefinite grounding and loss of access to the cars - 1) not being where you said you were going, 2) being in a dangerous situation (drugs/alcohol/pressure to do something really stupid) and not calling for a ride home, and 3) being a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking or using drugs.
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    I think it's difficult to make specific ages for things as a mature 13 year old can be like an immature 16 year old. We raised our daughter similar to myself and my siblings which was really more along the natural parenting style In other words putting a great deal of trust into the relationship with our daughter in her doing the 'right thing'.. thus was basically up to her when/if/when she dated and we were also very open to respecting sexuality in general and always made sure that we didn't assume she would date boys (as opposed to girls) etc., End of the day she didn't really date a great deal till later high school - she was too busy with her sports.. must admit she does have high standards though

    someone asked about teaching self respect, that starts with toddlers and continues lifelong.. helps to be in a respectful, tolerant environment where they observe respect daily in the choices we make
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    They had 3 "death sentence" house rules that would result in indefinite grounding and loss of access to the cars - 1) not being where you said you were going, 2) being in a dangerous situation (drugs/alcohol/pressure to do something really stupid) and not calling for a ride home, and 3) being a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking or using drugs.
    These sound great to me. I should write them down!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prancer View Post
    Statistically speaking, kids his age now are not likely to marry until they are nearly 30, if at all. I told him that if he waited that long, I would assume he had no sex drive.
    Never make assumptions. I'm 36, I've never been sexually active, and in my case, no, that assumption is NOT true.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    Never make assumptions. I'm 36, I've never been sexually active, and in my case, no, that assumption is NOT true.
    If I couldn't assume, I wouldn't be able to go to sleep at night; among other things, I assume I will wake up. In my own bed. In my house. Etc., etc. The idea that you should never assume is kinda to me.

    But anyway, you have religious beliefs that preclude premarital sex. He does not.

    So I think my assumption is pretty safe.
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    It's a generalization, I'll grant you. I was just pointing out that not being sexually active, for whatever reason, doesn't automatically equal no sex drive.
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    You might take a look as see if your health department participates in the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. If so, it is both helpful for parents to read and as a focal point for discussion with your teen. Here's the 2009 version for our county:
    http://www.bouldercounty.org/find/li...2009bocohs.pdf

    Sexual activity data begins on page 31. Percentage of students (who engaged in sex) who used condoms the last time they engaged in sex actually declines from the high of 71% in 9th grade to 58% in 11th grade.

    The binge drinking numbers on page 20 might also be interesting. In our county, 46.3% of the 12th grade girls in the (large, statistically quite valid) sample said that they had engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a short period) within the past 30 days. 63.5% of female 12th graders currently drink. (And in both cases, the percentages are higher for females than for males.)

    I was always amazed at the number of parents who could look at data on a huge percentage of kids having engaged in binge drinking or having sex, and then insist that it was only other people's children.

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