Dear Mom with 16-year-old-
You are right. With pressures on teens to be emotionally and sexually intimate, dating has taken on new meaning over the past 20 years. My advice to teens is to nurture good friendships with the opposite sex because this is the best way to really get to know their character. When teens date, they don’t act like themselves in many ways and work to please the person they are dating. This is not only true for girls, but for boys as well.
There is another reason that I am not an advocate of dating during the teen years: usually, nothing positive comes of high school dating relationships. Most teens break up and many of them hurt deeply after break-ups. My experience has taught me that teen boys often have a harder time with break-ups than girls because they don’t talk about their feelings and many feel that they failed.
We also know that the temptation for teens to be sexually active when they are dating is great and this adds another level of complexity and pain to the relationships after the couple has broken up. I’m not saying that your son will go down this path but I guarantee that he will be tempted because he is a normal, healthy teen boy.
I encourage you to keep open, frank and positive conversations going with your son. Tell him that you completely understand his desire to date but that he will get to know his friend much better if they remain friends. Let him know that if he and this girl are meant to be together, their friendship will survive and they can date later.
Finally, make sure he realizes that you are not anti-romance and that you are just the opposite. Tell him that it is wonderful but timing is critical. I am sure that he has seen friends date and become consumed with girlfriends. Remind him that this happens easily and that you want his life to remain balanced and full. If he begins dating too soon, he can fall in love, face temptations that are tough to handle, spend less time doing things that he loves and that are good for him and too much time with a girlfriend. While he may not end up with his heart broken, there is a very good chance that he will ultimately break up and if he is sensitive, carry a lot of hurt into his future.
Hope this helps!