More information on Love, Sex, Dating, and many other important topics related to Parenting Teens can be found in my book "The Angst of Adolescence: How to Parent Your Teen and Live to Laugh About It (link is external)" published by Bibliomotion, Inc.(link is external)Copyright © 2015 by Sara Villanueva When children are discovering who they are and there place in the world, confusing them with romantic intimacy does not help.
My two daughters and I were watching a movie the other night called Wedding Crashers (we’re all suckers for rom-coms), and we heard Owen Wilson say, “True love is the soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another” . That is indeed love, but does that concept somehow shift as we get older?
When we become teens, is one form replaced by another, or is it the same construct on some blissfully complicated continuum?
Having said all this, I should note that there are a couple of potential pitfalls when it comes to teens in the context of romantic relationships.
First, studies have shown that early and intensive (exclusive and serious) dating before the age of fifteen can have a somewhat stunting effect on adolescents’ psychosocial development.
Because marriage today, if it occurs at all, is happening much later in life (the average age is around twenty-seven for women and twenty-nine for men) dating for high school students has now taken on an entirely new meaning.
In today’s world, dating in adolescence no longer holds the sole purpose of mate selection; rather, it has become an introduction to the world of intimacy, relationship roles, sexual experimentation, and, yes, romantic love. ” That thought will quickly be followed by a sense of dread that feels like someone unexpectedly delivered a hard, swift kick right to your gut.
In past generations, dating in high school or college, for at least some, served a very specific function: mate selection.
That was certainly the case for many in previous cohorts of college women seeking what was so optimistically termed an “MRS. Don’t shoot the messenger: I’m simply relaying historical factoids.
It’s almost like practice for the real thing that is yet to come. But let’s think about this: when we contemplate teens dating at twelve, or perhaps even fourteen years of age, what we must realistically consider is what dating means at that age. Most often, dating during early adolescence involves exchanging contact information (i.e., giving cell phone numbers for texting, becoming friends or followers on social networking sites); engaging in harmless communication via text and SMSs; seeing each other at school; and maybe even holding hands as they walk through the halls, displaying their “couplehood” so that peer onlookers can eat their hearts out with envy. By the age of fifteen or sixteen, teens move toward qualitatively different and more meaningful romantic relationships; certainly, by the time they are seventeen or eighteen, they begin to think about their romantic relationships in a much deeper, more mature, and long-term way, with significant growth in both emotional and physical interests and commitment.