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Recently I was driving my 14-year-old son and his friends to soccer practice.
In the backseat they were chattering away, and in the front seat, I was the proverbial fly on the wall. “Yeah, they have been hooking up for a while.” Dating? I wondered how they could be talking about these things when they couldn’t even drive a car or pay for the movies.
They were laughing about another friend who was “dating” a girl. It got me wondering what exactly “dating” means to middle schoolers, and whether it’s a good idea at that age.
One minute they are happy with life; the next, they hate everything.
It is a peak time of physical growth for boys and girls. Their appearance begins to be important to them so they brush their teeth and shower more. These physical changes often drive behavior, especially when it comes to their burgeoning sexuality—so figuring out when and how to respond is like a high-wire act for parents. They respond more strongly to social rewards like a friend’s approval or disapproval.
One reason that adolescence is such a complicated time is because the brain is still changing. And most teens overwhelmingly prefer the company of their friends over their parents.
So coupling an adolescent’s risk-taking with his love for reward plus the innate need to establish his own sexual identity can mean that previously innocuous behavior can lead, if unchecked, to high-risk activities. While most people think of dating as getting in the car, picking someone up, and taking them to the movies or dinner, that’s an adult’s definition.
In fact, changes in an adolescent’s brain around puberty may contribute to an adolescent's seeking out romantic relationships and expanding them into sexual relationships, says B. Casey, Ph D, director of Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology. Adolescents don’t see dating that way, says Casey Corcoran, program director for Children & Youth at Futures Without Violence. The spectrum of informal to formal relationships is wide,” Corcoran says.
“Young people don’t have a lot of experience with relationships.
There might be something unhealthy or abusive going on in the relationship and they think that it is normal or even romantic.
They just don’t have a lot to compare it to.” So within this murky relationship ecology you might hear your teen say, “I’m going out with…” or “Jared and Ashley are hooking up.” Of course, the language varies depending on who you talk to, but in most cases, these relationships last an average of a few weeks.
And as any parent knows, relationships coupled with changes in adolescent development can impact not only kids’ ability to cope with these changes, but also how they perform in school and in other activities.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating