When Should Your Child Date?
I came across a blog from Desiring God ministries that I’ve linked to below on this topic, and it prompted me to let you know how my wife and I have tried to think through this issue. BTW, I’m going to switch between past and present tense somewhat incomprehensibly since two of our children are in college and the other two are in high school.
Our goal was for our kids to please God in how they related to the opposite sex. One of the best outcomes in our opinion was if our children developed friendships that were pure and holy. We didn’t want them to have regrets. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child could bring their spouse to meet an old high school romance and it wasn’t awkward—they didn’t have memories of sinning together? That was a scenario that we painted for our kids.
So I’m describing an ideal, and I am not embarrassed about holding out that ideal to my children. But the gospel teaches us that God takes messed up people, forgives their sins, and clothes them with Christ’s righteousness. Sinful failures in our relationships to the opposite sex don’t have to define us. Our identity in Christ is what defines us. God grants forgiveness to repentant sexual sinners. Praise God for that!
So what was our rule? Our kids weren’t allowed to have a dating relationship until they were able to get married. Our thought was that dating is for marriage. I’ve said that dozens of times to my children. So if you aren’t old enough to get married, then you aren’t old enough to date. Practically what that meant was they couldn’t have a dating relationship until they graduated from high school.
However, I’m not saying that the first person they date after high school should be whom they marry. No. Dating is for marriage, but that doesn’t mean that each dating experience should lead inevitably to marriage with that person. An adult might date several people less seriously and maybe a few more seriously before moving toward marriage with one particular person. Dating should be leading somewhere though. Even a bad date can help them on the road to marriage because they probably just learned some things that they don’t want in a future spouse. ;)
This is not the gospel. This is not biblically mandated. It’s an area of Christian liberty where we tried to help our kids make wise decisions. Of course we can’t prevent them from liking a particular person of the opposite sex nor would we even try to. But they couldn’t go on dates with that person. The only exceptions were a formal date like our school’s Junior-Senior Banquet because that is chaperoned and because it helps them learn how to properly relate to the opposite sex in a formal situation.
And even if our son/daughter had a girl/guy that they were really good friends with, we regularly ask them if they are looking at them as a good friend, which is okay, or a dating relationship, which isn’t. How would they know? Are they relating to the person in ways that they wouldn’t relate to a good friend of the opposite sex?
This doesn’t have to be everyone’s family rule. However, I do wonder why Christian parents are sometimes in such a rush to have their kids date. What’s the hurry?
Frankly I’ve seen enough Facebook posts to doubt that Christian teens are handling their dating relationships wisely while they’re in them, and the aftermath when they break up sometimes shows their misplaced values and immature search for identity. And you’re never going to convince me that a history of dating early and intensely and then breaking up has prepared a teen better for eventual Christian marriage than not dating would have. Seriously, can you name one spiritual benefit from dating in high school? Maybe you can. I’ve not thought of one. And I can think of several temptations dating could bring.
Our children are encouraged to have wholesome relationships with the opposite sex through school and church events or other group activities. They don’t need the pressure of finding a girlfriend or boyfriend in junior high or high school.
You are not helping your child find satisfaction in Jesus if even unintentionally you encourage them to find their identity in a boyfriend or girlfriend. Like I said, it’s not the gospel. It’s just something to think about.
Here’s the link to a well-written article on this topic from Desiring God Ministries.