The Family Project: Daughter, 15, dating?
Q. My 15-year daughter wants to date. Is she old enough? Should we insist on meeting the boy first? Should we talk to them?
As to whether or not your daughter is old enough to date, panelist Pam Wallace said that depends on the girl’s maturity and ability to be responsible.
“The parents know their child best. Is she mature enough to go on a date? Also, does she have ground rules on what to do if something unexpected happens? Will she reach out to her parents if she is in an uncomfortable situation?” asked Wallace.
“I would want more details on how everyone is defining ‘date,’” panelist Mike Ramsey asked.
“It can mean a lot of different things to kids, and other things to parents,” Ramsey continued, adding, “What are the teens planning on doing on the date? If they are talking about going to a movie or hanging out at the mall with other kids, then I think 15 is an appropriate age.”
As for meeting the boy, panelist Chad Stefanyak said, “She is only 15, so I think it is right for the parents to want to meet the boy first.”
Since transportation likely will be a consideration, Stefanyak said, “It will give the parents the opportunity to meet the boy without embarrassing the daughter by making it seem like they are being overly strict.”
Wallace said, “This could be the teens’ first attempts at a relationship in their lives, so the first date could have a lot of importance.”
The matter of age differences was discussed. “If the boy is 17 or 18, that raises some concerns,” Ramsey said.
“If the boy is close to the daughter’s age, you still want to ask how and where they met. I think these re reasonable questions to ask,” Ramsey continued, noting, “How you ask the questions are just as important as what is asked. The daughter needs to feel comfortable so that future conversations are possible.”
Panelist Amy Contakes said that prior to the date the parents should have a conversation with their daughter about dating and their expectations. “I hope it would also be an ongoing conversation,” Contakes said. The conversation should include “what ifs,” such as what she would do if her date or one of his friends is driving and drinking, or driving recklessly, Contakes said.
“It is important for parents to do their best to keep the lines of communication open so their kids trust them and they can trust their kids,” Wallace said.
This week’s panel is: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Amy Contakes, Valley Youth House.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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