Young People Ask . . .

What if My Parents Think I’m Too Young to Date?

“You’re old-fashioned, Mom. This isn’t the ’50’s. Everyone’s dating! I’m not your little girl anymore.”—16-year-old Janie. *

IT CAN be frustrating to be told that you’re not ready to date. “I want to do as the Bible says and honor my father and mother,” says one youth, “but I don’t think they’re right. I don’t even know how to discuss this with them.” Like this young man, you may feel that your parents are being unreasonable and unsympathetic. Maybe you’ve met someone that you really like and you want to get to know him or her better. Or perhaps you feel that getting into the dating scene would help you to fit in better with your peers. “There’s pressure,” says Michelle. “If you’re not dating, kids in school think you’re weird.”

One family counselor observed about dating: “There is no area in which parents seem more unreasonable.” But just because your parents may seem to be unreasonable, does that mean that they really are? After all, God holds your parents responsible to teach, train, protect, and guide you. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Could it be that your parents have some legitimate concerns about your well-being? “I see the danger looming,” says one parent, “and it’s very frightening.” Why does early dating alarm so many parents?

Dangerous Feelings

“My parents make it seem like there is something wrong with liking someone,” complains 14-year-old Beth. However, if your parents are Christians, they well know that God designed the sexes to be attracted to each other. (Genesis 2:18-23) They know that this attraction is natural, that it works in harmony with our Creator’s purpose for mankind to “fill the earth.”—Genesis 1:28.

Furthermore, your parents understand how strong sexual desires can be when you are in “the bloom of youth.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) They also know that you have had little experience in learning how to control those desires. If you begin spending a lot of time with someone of the opposite sex in person, on the phone, or even through letter writing or E-mail, the attraction will likely grow. ‘What’s so bad about that?’ you may ask. Well, what legitimate outlet do you have  for those desires? Are you really prepared to take those feelings to their logical conclusion—marriage? Not likely.

Early dating thus poses some serious dangers. The Bible warns: “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27) Far too often, premature dating leads to premarital sex, exposing youths to the possibilities of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. (1 Thessalonians 4:4-6) Young Tammy, for example, thought her parents were being unfair when they would not allow her to date. So she secretly began to date someone in school. Soon, though, Tammy was pregnant—and her life was changed. Now she confesses: “Dating is not all that it’s cracked up to be.”

But what if a young couple carefully avoid inappropriate contact? Even then, there is still the danger of awakening or arousing feelings of love prematurely. (Song of Solomon 2:7) Fanning the flames of desires that can only be legitimately fulfilled years in the future can result in frustration and misery.

Some other points to ponder: Do you really have enough experience in life to know what you should look for in a marriage mate? (Proverbs 1:4) On the other hand, do you already possess the qualities and skills needed to be a husband or a wife that will truly be loved and respected? Do you really have the patience and determination needed to maintain a long-term relationship? Not surprisingly, most teenage romantic relationships are painfully short-lived. Few result in long-lasting marriages.

Eighteen-year-old Monica therefore sums it up well when she observes: “All my friends in school would tell me their stories about their boyfriends. But they either got married young or ended up in a terrible breakup because they weren’t ready to go to the next level.” A youth named Brandon also observes: “When you realize that you’re not ready to commit to someone but you feel that you already have because you’re dating, it’s very frustrating. How do you back away without hurting the other person?”

Your parents are no doubt trying to spare you that pain and frustration by insisting that you do not date until you are old enough to make a marriage commitment. Really, they are only acting in harmony with the inspired advice at Ecclesiastes 11:10: “Remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh.”

‘Widening Out’

This does not mean, though, that you cannot enjoy the company of the opposite sex. But why narrow your association down to one person? The Bible, in another context,  encourages us to “widen out” in our associations. (2 Corinthians 6:12, 13) That is good advice for young people. One way to do so is to associate in mixed groups. “I think it’s more fun that way,” observes Tammy. “It’s better to have a lot of friends.” Monica says: “The group idea is a really good idea because you get to see people with different personalities and it makes you realize that there are many people out there that you haven’t met yet.”

Your parents may even be willing to help you arrange for wholesome good times with other young ones. Anne, a mother of two, explains: “We always make sure that our home is a fun place where the kids want to be. We invite their friends over, give them snacks, and let them play games. This way they don’t feel that they have to get out of the house to have fun.”

Of course, even in a group you still have to be careful about showing too much attention to one person. Some youths reason that as long as they’re with other people, they’re not really dating. Avoid such self-deception. (Psalm 36:2) If you are pairing off with the same person every time you get together with your friends, it amounts to dating. * Work at using sound judgment in your friendships with the opposite sex.—1 Timothy 5:2.

The Value of Waiting

It is not easy to be told that you are too young to begin dating. But your parents are not trying to hurt you. On the contrary, they are doing everything they can to help and protect you. So instead of trusting your own heart and rejecting their advice, why not utilize their experience? For example, why not seek their advice the next time you have a problem dealing with the opposite sex? Proverbs 28:26 reminds us: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid.” Young Connie says: “When a guy likes me, what helps me resist the pressure to date is talking about it with my mom. She shares experiences of what happened to her friends and family in the past. It really helps me.”

Waiting a while before you date will not hinder your emotional development or stifle your freedom. Because you have not yet taken on the adult responsibilities of courtship and marriage, you have the freedom to ‘rejoice in your youth.’ (Ecclesiastes 11:9) Waiting will also allow you time to develop your personality, maturity and, most important of all, spirituality. (Lamentations 3:26, 27) As one Christian youth put it, “you should be committed to Jehovah before you commit to anyone else.”

As you get older and your advancement becomes obvious to everyone, your parents will begin to view you differently. (1 Timothy 4:15) And when you are truly ready to date, you will no doubt be able to do so with their blessing.

[Footnotes]

^ par. 3 Names have been changed.

^ par. 17 For further information, see pages 232-3 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

[Pictures on page 20]

Singling out someone of the opposite sex for special attention. . .

. . . will usually arouse romantic feelings

[Picture on page 21]

Instead of narrowing your interests down to one person, widen out in your friendships