Dating is one of those words that means different things to different people, especially if two of those people are a mother and son. When your son tells you he wants to date someone, don’t immediately panic! In some cases, that doesn’t actually mean what we think of when we think of dating. So the first thing to do when your son tells you he wants to date someone is to clarify exactly what he means by “date.” When he tells you that he means he wants to take a girl to a movie, then you can panic. I jest! Your response will likely vary based on your son’s age. Below is a breakdown of some ideas you might want to consider for your son based on his age. Of course, as with all things, you, his parent, are the final authority as to when your son gets to do anything!
Elementary School: If your son tells you that he is dating someone in elementary school, fear not. While the term changes from generation to generation (remember when you “went with” a boy? My father always wanted to know just where we thought we were going!), at this tender age, dating is simply an acknowledgement that two kids like each other. For some parents, this stage is adorable. For others, forming any kind of special attachment at so young an age is unacceptable, even if the most couple-oriented thing the kids do together is make eyes at each other. In few cases, though, should you worry that your son actually wants to take a girl somewhere at this stage of the game.
Jr High: At this level, the term “dating” becomes even more amorphous, so it is especially important that you clarify with your son what he means before you make any decisions about it. If he means he wants to take a girl to the fully-chaperoned school dance, that might be okay with you. For some parents, though, this arrangement is unacceptable. You might be okay with letting your son plan to meet up with a girl at the dance, but with the caveat that each child will be driven to and from the dance with his own parents.
If your son wants to take a girl to the movies, it may be your first instinct to tell him no, but consider the following compromise (which will have the added benefit of allowing you to see just how much your son actually wants to go to the movies at all): tell your son that he may meet a girl at the movies and that he can decide whether he wants you and your husband (or you and your girlfriend, or just you) to sit next to them or behind them. Some boys may surprise you with how okay they are with this arrangement, while others may balk so completely that you can tell them to shelve any dating plans they may have
until they are older.
High School: It is at around this time that many parents begin to diverge from each other in terms of what they will allow their sons to do. While 16 is, to me, the logical age to begin to allow one-on-one dating (if only because that is when many teens are old enough to drive alone), some parents may be comfortable with driving their son and a date places earlier than that. For other parents, group dates may be the best option for their sons who are not yet old enough for one-on-one dating.
This topic may seem unimportant to some moms, but one of my maxims of parenting is never to get the deer in the headlights look around my children. Avoiding having that look requires forethought and advance planning, so whether your son is 6 or 16, consider your dating standards before your son asks. Having something resembling a ready answer will be a relief for both you and your son.