Teens have questions about dating
The area youth are making use of “Ask Liz” this week. Our youth have great challenges and decisions today. They are exposed to a great deal of temptation. They are the rising generation, brilliant, beautiful — our future leaders. Anything I can do to help is a true honor.
My parents won’t let me single date until I am 16. I have a few friends whose parents feel the same way. But, compared to a lot of my friends at school, I am a weirdo. I feel torn about it, because, honestly I have seen some benefits — even protection. On the other hand, I trust myself and know how to act. I am 14.
Wanting the choice
Great letter, great signature. I think it is a sign of growing responsibility when a teen wants the choice, rather than insisting on it being his or her “way.” You are wise to realize that dating restrictions are not to rule or run your life — they are protection. Many churches have that policy, because of God’s law of chastity (which if God could explain, he’d would underscore the importance of you being free to grow, experience, learn, know yourself, gain knowledge, have all possible choices for your future without regrets. Yes, it is a law of protection.) Religious or not, it forces young people to be able to focus on friendships, education, family and not the “end of the world” feelings a break-up can cause — especially if the couple has been sexually active.
Many teens say they can be sexually active at any age — and a set age for single dating is a waste. Sorry, but research indicates that you make better choices by then — and the later the better. Group dating is a wonderful thing. Double and triple dates are too.
Always be cautious that you aren’t becoming “needy” for a boy’s approval, comfort, affection. We all need to fit in, to feel special. But a sexually charged (hormones) relationship can fool you. It can make you feel like you are on top of the world, and in the depths of destruction. Be careful. If you feel your esteem needs a boost, talk to someone (adult) you trust. Work on activities and interests that fill you up. Take your time. Be picky. Design the man of your dreams, and work to be worthy of him (as I hope “he” is doing for you.) Thank you for the great question.
I am 17 and haven’t really dated much. I am active in school, have a few close (great) friends and am active in church. Sometimes, though, when I see a couple holding hands, I feel envious. I want to feel special. Suggestions?
Good for you. If you read the answer to the letter above, you’ll see the advantages to your situation. It can be a blessing in disguise. You describe an appropriate well-rounded life. If you want to add more in the boy department, attend youth dances and activities at church, and seek out friendships with guys who have similar interests.
Your developmental task is to define who you are, and what you believe — your identity (separate from another person) and healthy interdependence. Practice your social skills, and gain confidence in other settings and you will be just fine.
College is a whole ’nother ball game. You will find more people you can relate with — including young men.
Again, there is no rush. Enjoy the time you have to define yourself, and you will have a much greater chance of finding a lasting relationship with the right person for you.
(Contact Liz via firstname.lastname@example.org. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.)