Teen Romance: How Young Is Too Young?

teen couple laying in the grass

When it comes to teenage love, how do you know if your child is too young for a relationship? Stay in tune with what’s happening in your teen’s life, and be ready to give guidance and emotional support. Start by taking a look at the big picture.

According to studies at the University of Florida, the younger the teen, the less serious he or she considers a romantic relationship to be. The typical teen romance lasts roughly five months for younger teens, and may extend up to two years for older teenagers. It turns out that teens tend to date for socialization reasons or peer acceptance. Older teenagers are likely to make stronger emotional connections and may look to their partner for social support.

You can provide support and relationship guidance to your teenager by making them feel more comfortable communicating with you about personal and social matters.

Try These Conversation Starters:

  • If your teen is stressing and becoming obsessed with a relationship, it may be time to set some “family limits.” Steve and Patt Saso, a husband-wife team who have been teaching parenting for more than 20 years, say it’s vital to discuss responsible sexuality with your teen. As authors of Talking to Your Kids about Responsible Sexuality (CD), they say it’s essential for parents to establish guidelines and family rules that will help keep their teens safe.

  • Some of these limits may relate to restricting internet time or cell-phone conversations. Suggest alternate activities and other things they are interested in.

  • Talk with your teen “creatively” (lecture-free) about the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of engaging in premarital sex, advise Steve and Patt Saso.

teen couple holding hands

What Is the Parent's Responsibility?

  • No matter how much of a “crush” your teen has and how much you might not like the object of admiration, try not to make light of the relationship.

  • Keep your communication lines open with your teen. Avoid making judgment calls so that your teen will not move toward secrecy about this relationship or future ones.

  • Remember to talk frankly about your family values (without lecturing). Discuss dating, sex, and certain things like whether a boyfriend or girlfriend values their education, is close in age to your own teen, and stays clear of drugs.

  • If the relationship interferes with, becomes obsessive, or prevents other activities, try to keep a watchful eye on it.

  • Be sure you’re speaking honestly with your teen about who he or she is hanging out with, where they’re going, and what they are doing.

What If Your Teen’s Relationship Gets Sexual?

Is your teen ready for romance? If you believe your teen is going further than you first thought—and starting to experiment sexually—you need to talk with him or her about it. Birth control will need to be included in that discussion.
At what age are teens moving from casual dating? According to the non-profit organization Child Trends, more than 40 percent of teenagers have sexual intercourse between age 15-19—some with multiple partners. The fact that they are having sex does not necessarily mean they are ready for real romance.
Is a teen's brain still developing? Research shows that preteen and teen romantic encounters may have long-term serious emotional and physical repercussions. The adolescent years are a crucial period for the brain to make certain connections as it continues to develop, and this process may continue through the teen years.

teen couple kissing and holding cell phones

Educating about Responsible Sex

Responsible romance at 14? Whether teens are ready for romance and sex at age 14 is the subject of debate. The reality is that many of them are experimenting with premarital sex. Junior high and high school years also tend to be the timeframe when adolescents are questioning their sexual preferences, and many engage in risky behavior.

Oxford University’s Practical Ethics reports that an online sex education resource such as RespectYourself.info for preteens and teens may go a long way toward easing doubts and clearing up myths they might have about the subject.

This website has drawn both positive and negative attention. Oxford University points out that if teens have such a resource, it may help ease anxiety by helping them understand physical changes and urges in terms to which they can relate. It can help teens understand what to expect, emotionally and physically, and where they can access contraception if they are sexually active. This may aid them in learning how to prevent sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy.

Remember to stay connected with your teen. By keeping up-to-date with what’s happening in their teen romance—whether they’re ready for it and how far they’ve progressed—will need monitoring and face-to-face talks with mom or dad!