We received many questions from parents of teenagers in primary and high school, asking on the topic of dating. It is difficult to write an article on dating, because values differ; our convictions are not the same and our perspectives can be poles apart. I wrote this article, to share my heart and principles with you and not necessarily to share practical tools. My advice to you is that you will take a conservative stand against dating in your household, to not promote or encourage it. Teenagers firstly need to discover their own identity – the uniqueness that Christ see in them. They need to be convinced that their lives count, not because a boyfriend or girlfriend says so or make them feel important, but because of their identity in Christ. My prayer is that God will speak to you.
What is the purpose of dating?
Should all relationships end in marriage? No, but I do believe that the intention when dating someone should be with an eye toward marriage. You should look at the person you want to date and think, “this is someone I want to pursue, because I believe that they would be a good spouse for me.” Aimless dating for the purpose of testing the field and gaining experience teaches you to downplay commitment and breaks hearts. One day you will regret not being able to give those pieces of your heart to your spouse. If there is no intention to get to know a young man or woman because he or she seems like someone they might want to marry, there is no reason to date. Dating just to date is purposeless, it leads to heartache. Let’s avoid unnecessary heartache! If possible.
I believe that young people need to find their identity in Christ and be involved in their local church. They need a firm foundation in this area before any relationship with the opposite sex is entered.
At what age should kids start dating?
I think it is probably not the smartest idea to date in high school, but I don’t think being “done with school” makes you automatically ready to date. There are a few things I believe are at the heart of whether anyone is ready to date, at any age. I also believe that being ready, will look different for each individual. As parents, we are committed to know our children (and their friends, of cause.) We fully believe the Scripture that says that bad company corrupts good character (or morals). Living and being involved in community is important for helping to determine this. Having parents, youth leaders or the elderly speak into your life at any age is crucial. I don’t believe there is a specific age when someone can or should start dating although our rule is “no dating until 18” for the very simple reason that we want our kids to think and plan long term. After they are rooted in Christ and rooted in a community of believers. That being said…I won’t advice parents to consider discussing this until high school. Primary school is filled with enough drama. Adding anything else to the full plate that is hormone-filled insecurity in primary school is unwise.
What type of person should you date?
As a believer, you should always be looking at the people who make you want to pursue Christ more than anything else. They don’t have to be perfect. If their heart is inclined to know Jesus more, that is worth a lot. Saying that, their relationship with Jesus should stand the test of time, before dating. Remember parents, because someone is doing the right thing on the outside, doesn’t mean they are pursuing Jesus as their first love. A good first step is to find someone who has a deep desire to know God and will encourage your kids to do the same. Do they walk with their youth leader or others in accountability with humility, vulnerability and accountability? Although our kids are older and might even be close to the end of their high school years, it doesn’t mean they know how to make wise decisions – they carry very little life experience. They are not emotionally and romantically mature enough to be involved in serious dating.
Find someone you enjoy and find someone you want to hang out with, as a friend – friendship is vitally important. Protect your friendships. You are not meant to date only because you are good friends. Choose someone you have fun with, someone who makes you want to know God more. Beyond that, there is no “right” type of guy to date.
What are the rules?
We don’t have many rules. So far, the only rule we have is that if someone wants to begin dating our daughter, they need to meet with my husband first. That means that some young man needs to call my husband, sit down face to face with him, and ask him if he can pursue one of our kids. I can assure you; this will be a conversation with a lot of difficult questions, from my husband’s side. We aren’t sure what this will look like when they are adults, but so far it has been a good filter – our daughter needs to like a guy enough to even consider giving the boy my husband’s number! We have told our daughter that we expect to say yes to whoever comes and asks, because we trust her to bring home a guy worthy of that honour. Until then, we want her to learn how to be friends with boys without getting weird and flirty and without the option to date. If there comes a time when a friend would like to pursue something more than friendship, then she will know who that person is (at least in some way) and will be better able to assess if they want the same thing.
Most of the time, we as parents feel a bit like we are walking in the dark. However, we have talked with some older, wiser people, have read a few things and have prayed, and prayed for wisdom regarding this. We don’t know exactly how things will play out, but we are asking God to lead us, our children and their future spouses well.
We have taught our daughter that she needs a YES from God, her parents and her closest friends. If anyone in one of these categories says no, she should have a question mark too. People generally like love stories and how it unfolds, but be careful from whom you accept advice and input.
I would recommend that you as parents walk with older people, in accountability and learn from those people. Meet up with a Godly couple once a month and learn form them. Ask them questions like:
- What concerns have you had about your own kids and dating?
- Where have you and your spouse landed?
- For those who have older, married kids, what advice do you have?
May God fill your days with His presence.