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It might seem as though the tween-age years is too young to think about our children and dating, but it isn’t. While they are tweens is the perfect time to put a plan in place for the future. In fact, if you don’t want your child to date during the early and mid-teen years, your time is well spent coming up with a plan now to win their hearts over to that idea.
You could enforce whatever you decide is best. It’s so much better to help them see for themselves that dating at a young age isn’t a good idea. We didn’t want our child to have a rebellious heart toward us because they think we’re keeping from something. A “right” of the teenage years that everyone else, even those with good, Christian parents seems to have.
How can we avoid that rebellion, the heartache and angst that so often comes with teenage dating?
I think it is possible to avoid it. My two oldest children (my third has Down syndrome and is 15) didn’t date in the typical sense as teenagers. It wasn’t something we forced on them. There was no rebellion. It can be done 🙂 I’ve witnessed it in other families too and it really is possible!
If you have a tween-aged child, it really is the perfect time to begin thinking about this issue. Pray about it. Talk with your spouse and then begin talking with your tween. Slowly. This isn’t something that has to be covered in a day. But you’re laying a foundation for the teen years. By the time mine hit the typical dating age, they weren’t even thinking about it much. It was mostly settled in their hearts and minds.
You might be thinking, why wouldn’t I want my kids to date at 16?
I started dating at 16 and maybe you did too. And with the dating came situations I would prefer my daughter not have to navigate at that age.
I went to a Christian school at 16 and the guys I went out with were “good, Christian boys”. I was taken off guard on a first date with one such good, Christian boy. When we were in the car alone I wasn’t prepared for him to be so forward, pushing for us to kiss and make out.
This was a truly nice guy who had never been anything but nice to me at school. We had gone to a movie and then were parked somewhere. I remember feeling a little nervous when he was going somewhere to park. I clearly remember trying to figure out how to get out of this situation. All without offending this boy, losing his friendship AND without his continuing to slobber all over my face. Again, this was a genuinely nice guy. I wasn’t prepared.
Maybe my lack of preparation had something to do with my less than stable home life. But that wasn’t it entirely. I did manage to get out of the situation somewhat gracefully, but not without anxiety. This kind of situation wasn’t the only reason I came to feel that it was best to wait until a little older to date, but it was one factor.
It wasn’t that night, but there were other times in my teen years that I made choices I later regretted. In youthful ignorance and without a strong foundation of faith, emotion ruled my choices. Dating has a tendency to form emotional ties. You are likely to form emotional attachments
Dating has a tendency to form emotional ties. You are likely to form emotional attachments before you know if this person is really a good person for you to marry. But then you’re already attached to them. Then you’re just a conflicted, emotional mess less likely to make wise decisions about the rest of your life.
Dating in the early to mid-teen years, whether the experience is good or bad, brings emotional turbulence. I came to decide that it was totally unnecessary. There are just better ways for teens to spend their time and emotional energy. Dating might not turn out to be terrible, but I decided that it just wasn’t the best choice.
Once I arrived at this conclusion, I thought about how I would have totally not gone along with it if my dad told me I couldn’t date. You start dating at 16, it’s just what you do. That’s what I thought at the time, anyway.
What really started this whole process of thinking for me was when our home school administrator spoke at one of our meetings. It was about choosing courtship rather than dating. At that time, the whole idea was a brand new one for me.
The Duggar family has now made that a word more people know, but it was new to me at that time. And don’t let me lose you here. Although we homeschooled, we were your pretty average family. We wear pants. We own and watch tv and my son played video games that some of them I wished he didn’t, but we didn’t forbid them. At the age he was at the time, that was a battle we decided not to take on. What choosing your battles wisely looks like will be different in each family.
My wheels were turning that there was possibly a better way. I began to research online and read books on the list that had been handed out at the homeschool meeting.
Even if you think dating is a just fine thing for your teens, I encourage you to read at least one book considering that there could be a better way.
Once we decided dating at a young age wasn’t a good idea I wasn’t sure how to go about making that happen. There was never an exact plan of “they can’t date until such and such age.” There was never a, “They will not ever date, they will choose courtship.” Our thoughts were more along the lines of, “Young dating isn’t a good idea. As adults, we know that, let’s try to help the kids see the wisdom in that. If they can’t, we’ll deal with that when it comes.”
To be honest, my husband felt less sure of it than me. He didn’t read any of the books, but he listened to what I said. He agreed that it all sounded good, but he never really could see it working out the way I wanted it to.
From the night of that homeschooling meeting going forward, I became more and more convinced this was the right direction to pursue.
I’m a big reader and I don’t mind research. I read a lot of books over several years that helped form my opinions on courtship and dating. It helped to take different things away from each one. Here are some options and I will point out my favorites for those that just want to read a couple of books. It’s been a while (years) since I read some of them, so I don’t remember everything about all of them.
This is a list of resources for YOU, not your tween.
I think it’s a great idea for them to read some of the books later if they’re interested. My daughter, who likes to read, as a teen read a couple of them. There may have been others, I read a lot. But these are the ones that stand out in my memory. The list is in alphabetical order.
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- And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity by Dannah Gresh. I don’t remember a ton about this book. What stands out in my memory as I re-read the description is that sexual sin doesn’t “just happen”. There are decisions you make that put you in a vulnerable position.
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. It wasn’t my favorite of the books I read, but I took some good things away from it. The version sold today is expanded and updated.
- Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Joshua Harris, written after he met and married his wife. I really liked this book. He’s very open and real about some difficult aspects of his courtship relationship. If you are only going to read a couple of books, this was a good one.
- Quest For Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott. While I love Elisabeth Elliott, and this is a good book, this wasn’t one of my favorites. I would read if you want to read all on this topic you can get your hands on. Not if you’re just looking to read a couple of books.
- When God Writes Your Love Story (Expanded Edition): The Ultimate Guide to Guy/Girl Relationships by Eric and Leslie Ludy. I read this book before it was the “expanded edition”. This is one of my favorites! Loved this book. Both of the books by the Ludy’s are written with alternating chapters by Eric and Leslie. I loved getting the male and female perspective. This is one my daughter read and she really liked it too. We have given it as a gift. I wanted my son to read it and gave it to him but he never finished it. I would have had to put it in our homeschool curriculum to get him to do so and there just wasn’t room. But he greatly benefitted from all the resources I read without him having read them.
- When Dreams Come True: A Love Story Only God Could Write by Eric and Leslie Ludy this came after the book listed just above. (There has been an addition to the book since the edition I read.) Jordan, my daughter read this one too. I think she might have said this one was her favorite of the two. Honestly, I like them both a lot and can’t remember which was my favorite.
Tips on how to put it into action!
One great benefit of homeschooling is the amount of time you get to spend with your kids. Over the course of time, there were natural openings to conversations. We began letting the kids know that dad and I thought to wait until later for courtship or dating was the best choice.
It was just woven in with everyday life experiences as there was an opportunity.
Once they were teenagers, there were some late night talks. Usually, they were brought about by them or some situation that lead to us talking about it. I leapt at every opportunity, but it was never formal or forced.
Thankfully, our kids did see the wisdom in waiting until they were older for romantic relationships. There were momentary crushes, there were opposite-sex friendships, but no romantic relationships. As teenagers, any time one of their friends had a painful relationship, you can bet I was quick to say, “Aren’t you glad you’re avoiding that pain?” 🙂
Also from a really young age, we did not encourage the whole “boyfriend/girlfriend” thing. So many today joke about their kids in elementary school having a boyfriend or girlfriend. We chose not to encourage that line of thinking. To discourage something, sometimes all that is required is just not to give it any attention.
We are part of a large homeschool group. Our teens got together with other teens in groups and participated in activities but didn’t “date”. Our homeschool group has an annual “formal” for high school students with dinner and dancing. The adults called it the Formal, the teens called it Prom.
This prom did not resemble those you’ve seen on tv:) It was extremely well done. Both my teens enjoyed attending multiple times with dates that were their friends that they were not in a romantic relationship with. My son also went to a homecoming dance with a friend that attended a Christian school that invited him. These were all great experiences!
The conversations started slowly in the older tween years and were steady through the teen years.
Even though the teen years can be turbulent at times, I was able to maintain a friendship with both my teens. It may not be possible with every teen, but it certainly makes them more receptive to what you think and say. Both teens agreed that dating and romantic relationships weren’t a good idea until they were older.
My oldest started to date some at 18. She knew clearly then what it was that she was looking for in a husband. We had been talking about it for years. She got married this past September just after turning 22 to a young man we already dearly love. We say often that he is a lot like her dad 🙂 My son is 21 and has yet to date and be in a romantic relationship. I’m kinda ready for him to find a super sweet girl now!
What if they hadn’t gone along with our thinking? What if they were dead set determined that they wanted to date?
Depending on their maturity level at the time, we probably would have let them, with lots of coaching. It wouldn’t have been our first choice. I wouldn’t have liked it. But we might have gone along with it if they were respectful of us. We would have done all we could to keep the conversation open and their hearts and ears open to us.
While there is still some peer pressure when homeschooling, it isn’t nearly so strong as when going to school. Teens spend more time with their parents instead of with their peers (who are also immature) all day every day. I think it made it much easier for my kids to make the decision not to date because they weren’t surrounded constantly by others feeling differently. Not all homeschooling families feel the same about dating, of course, but the pressure to conform was certainly less.
Tween parents, there are hard moments in tween parenting and hard moments in teen parenting, but also much joy!
I enjoyed the teen years with my now adult children so much. We truly were and are friends. You have much to look forward to.
Thanks for reading all my many words. I hope you find encouragement here, whatever you decide about dating!
This was Day 22 of 30 Days of the Tween Parenting Encouragement Blog Party!
I’m Josette Hall. I love being a homeMAKER. As wives and moms , we have the ability to set the tone in our home. I want the atmosphere of our home to be one of warmth, love, fun, and thankfulness. I choose to see and ponder on the beauty and joys of the ordinary, everyday.