Saturday, August 8, 2015

Should Christian Teens Date?

2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee from youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace and along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

After discussing both dating and marriage in the Christian community, I now like to analyze the topic of dating among teenagers of the Christian faith.  There has been debating arguments about whether Christian teens should be allowed to date, when they should date or should they date only in groups or not.  Many Christians had various attitudes on this subject with some believing teen dating should be banned altogether until they are adults.  

The more conservative groups want to replace dating with courtship among youths. The popular perception is that dating his harmful for teenagers or they need special restrictions placed upon them. These can include dating only in groups even in college, never allowed to be alone together and that parents should never let them out of their sight for a moment. These kinds of restrictions can surely be daunting and some has to wonder where does such strict attitudes come from.  Especially since teen dating isn’t some new thing of this era bout been going on for many decades. 

By the 1950s, high school students even did was called multi-dating where they dated more than one person usually encouraged by their parents who may have felt they were too young to get so serious with just one person. Then if they really liked someone and wanted to get serious they go steady.  Sometimes going steady didn’t last too long during high school if they meant someone else they liked and decided to go steady with them.  Of course, during these time periods sex until marriage was still the accepted norm and the biggest step in a relationship was necking or petting.  People also tended to get married much younger as the common ages to marry were between the ages of 18-22.  It wasn’t just high schoolers having romances but children in middle school/junior school and even as young as elementary school were forming unofficial relationships. 

These type of relationships were usually innocent and not taken very seriously.  Middle school/junior high school students idea of “dating” considered mainly to pass notes, send love letters or valentine cards, holding hands, talk on the phone, wearing friendship pins, rings, or bracelets.  The boy may boy a girl a ring or bracelet from a vending machine.  They usually hanged out with each other and still did typical kid stuff and went steady which would last for a few months.  Their biggest step was having their first real kiss on the lips.  There have been plenty of classic TV shows and films involving childhood romances often portraying them as sweet and innocent.  So if teen dating has been popular for decades, why has the attitude changed these days?  Why do many Christians get so uptight about it now?  I think it has to due with the cultural norms and customs changing since the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. 

In today’s more hypersexual society, premarital sex has become more the norm even among teenagers.  In the U.S. 16 is the most common age that teens lose their virginity.  Teen pregnancy, Aids and STDS are quite high among teenagers.  To combat all of this, the more ultra-conservative Christian community has taken another extreme with the “I Kiss Dating Goodbye’ and “True Love Wait’s culture encourages courtship rather than dating which I mentioned a previous post about Christian dating.  Some of these groups even discourage friendships with the opposite sex out of fear it would be too tempting.  Just like with dating among adults, these types of extremes can actually hinder teenagers especially when they get older and have to deal with the dating world and are so unprepared to what to do and who relationships work. 

I can’t help but feel perplex when teenagers aren’t considered old enough to date yet are encouraged to engage in courtship when they are barely out of their teens which could also cause some problems in their marriages.  I personally think that dating among teenagers is not only appropriate but should be embraced as just a one of the many life experiences of growing up.  These experiences can be quite beneficial contrary to what many believe.  One benefit of dating is learning  how to form bonding relationships with the opposite sex with all it entails, the emotions, the ups and downs, the sacrifices etc.  Another one is discovering what he/she needs and desires in a partner, learning to draw boundaries in what is right for them and what isn’t.  Finally, dating can help teens learn more about themselves even if it means being challenged and stepping out of their comfort zone. They can find out what they can bring to the table, how much they can endure and what it really means to truly care for someone.  These skills can help teenagers in the dating word once they leave their teen years behind and reach full adulthood and enable them to find their future spouse. 

The many arguments against teen dating also consists of getting their hearts broken since dating at such a young age often doesn’t last.  However, sometimes relationships don’t last even for adults and people still often get their hearts broken.  Breakups in a dating relationship can be painful but it is also part of life and one of the pitfalls of dating and can happen to any single person. Unfortunately pain itself is a part of life in that a relationships but we can overcome pain. In a breakup we can recover from by starting to heal and learn to move on in time and even learn from the experience.   Just because something didn’t last doesn’t mean it was all bad or that it wasn’t beneficial.  Sometimes God could bring someone in your life even temporary and could even benefit you before you find the person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with.  The most common concerns for youths dating so young is the sexual activity. 

In this modern society, saving sex for the sanctuary of marriage is less common and it could be particularly problematic  for teenagers who inexperience what to do with their raging hormones, easily led astray by peer pressure and getting  the wrong information from peers and sometimes well-meaning adults alike about sex.  But there are other solutions on how to deal with this problem than banning dating altogether which is mostly done out of fear.  Acting out of Fear doesn’t often help the teen even if it may ease the parent’s state of mind it may even stifle them and/or cause resentments causing them to rebel especially after they leave for college and get out under their parent’s roof where they had much more options and may want to compensate for all the restrictions that were placed on them.  Besides there are so much better solutions to the problems in dating.  First it’s the parents job to give reasonable and fair rules, standards, and boundaries regarding their child’s dating by setting an age requirement. 

For younger teens there can be group dating, or mixed group outings however typically when the teen is between the ages 16-17, it’s probably best to allow single dating, so the they can get the experience.  Other boundaries can include going out only in public places, no parking in secluded areas, in fact parents may want to ban car dating until they feel their teen is mature and can be trusted to handle these situations on their own, maybe anywhere between ages 16-18(just my personal opinion) until then the parents can chauffer their kids around.  Also not allowing their child to bring his/her girlfriend/boyfriend to the house unless under parental supervision and the same rules can apply at their girlfriend/boyfriend’s house.  Banning the bedroom or any secluded rooms with a door or insisting either a third party has to present in the room or the door remains open at all times. Although some churches will say that teen couples shouldn’t ever be allowed alone together, I don’t recommend chaperoning their every move to the point of hovering over them. 

There needs to some form of trust between child and parent and just as kids need their own space to be around their friends they need space with their dating partner as well.  It’s unlikely the teen will do anything too far knowing their parents are under the same roof in another room who could hear them and walk in on them any moment.  Then there is the thing parents most fear, the sex thing itself.  Some churches and parents alike just feel they can just install to them that sex is saved for marriage and don’t want to dwell more on it.  Others even inflict shame or guilty over teen’s sexuality which causes them to fear sex or any intimate moment in a relationship.  It’s natural that parents don’t want to think about their kid’s sexuality and raging hormones but the reality is they do exist and parents can’t control these aspects of their children no matter how much they try.  Instead of trying hard to control their kid’s sexuality it’s best to le their kids know that there is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’ is important for them to know that their sexuality is normal with all the sexual desires and hormones and that we all have them but how they are responsible how they handle and control these desires ensuring they don’t allow themselves to give n to sexual sin. 

As for physical affection, it’s unrealistic to not expect teenagers not to engage in some form of intimacy including kissing, touching, holding hands, hugging etc.  It’s important that they are aware that physical affection is a normal and healthy ways caring couples express their feelings but that their needs to be some boundaries so they won’t be led to stray.  Rather than a long list of what not do, it may be better to help them come up with reasonable boundaries of what is appropriate and what isn’t.  Mostly importantly is encouraging them to control their hormones rather allow their hormones control their impulses by making wise judgments, showing self-restraint and will power which will also help make wise decisions during their adulthood when they are on their own.  Last but not least, dating should be a fun experience where boy meets girl and they go out, spend time together and have good time and the rest is history. 

Teenage years are the most exciting, frustrating, challenging and stressful but teens can make the most of them in whatever they do which includes experiencing the joy sand hard ache of romantic relationships for the first time.