Dear Dr. G.,
I recently read your article warning parents about the perils of young teens and dating. I really don't get this. I have a 13 year old daughter. She is very pretty and popular and all of the boys like her. I have to say that I am proud of her. I was a wallflower with acne and sat home while the other kids went out. When I was pregnant I prayed to have a popular child who would be happy and be sought out by the opposite sex.
Your article confused me. Can you explain some more what you have against young teens dating?
A Confused Mother
First, let me say that we have to be very careful about wishing for popularity for our kids. The popular kids are not always the happiest kids nor are they always the nicest. They can be very cruel and exclusive. Anyone who has ever been excluded knows that this has often been initiated by the popular kids.
Your daughter may be a very nice young woman. Nonetheless, kids who begin to date as young teens are more likely to have bad study habits, eventually develop substance use problems and are unfortunately more likely to drop out of school than teens who begin to date at later ages. I am not sure why this is the case but I have some ideas.
Dating can be quite confusing and distracting for young teens. Look, it is even complicated for mature adults, right? The young teen may be ill-equipped to deal with these sorts of intimate relationships and may come to rely on their relationship status as an indicator of their self-esteem. Perhaps the early daters neglect friendships and lack a necessary support group of friends to see them through all of the years of middle school and high school. We all have had and continue to have friends who drop us when they are in a dating relationship.
I am not sure how you and your daughter are defining dating. If it simply refers to exchanging thumbs-up signs or a few text messages that is one thing. On the other hand, if they a spending a lot of time with the boyfriend to the exclusion of friends then I would suggest that you put limits on this sort of dating
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