As a twenty-something adult who have successfully managed to save myself from the typical heartaches and losses brought by reckless relationships, I could conclude that there is a healthy way to approach the dating years. For most concerned parents, coaches, teachers, and pastors, dating during the teen years has become an extremely sensitive topic. In order to acquire a balanced point of view, I bought and read "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris and "I Gave Dating a Chance" by Jeramy Clark (no, that was not a typo).
I agree with certain aspects of the no-dating movement, such as not allowing young teens to go out exclusively with a member of the opposite sex while still on the process of their physical, emotional, and educational development. Believe me, being a teen during the extremely liberal ‘nineties (a time when "Beverly Hills 90210" and "MTV" dictated our values) was confusing enough. Who needs all the complications of roller-coaster relationships?
But I discovered an unhealthy outcome of the no-dating movement. Several guys and girls have harbored ill feelings towards the opposite sex, believing that they shouldn’t interact with each other even as friends. They have developed an immature and narrow-minded perspective that males and females are supposed to avoid each other, thinking that they’d get hurt emotionally. And yet social skills are part of a holistic personality, and we should develop these skills if we want to get along better in life.
A feasible solution would be to provide many social environments where teens and young adults can learn to properly relate with each other in a safe, fun, and healthy context. Clubs, chorus, student organizations, volunteer work, getting involved at church, etc. are just some examples of these social environments. They take the pressure off from young teens to start pairing up without depriving them of the necessary opportunities for personality development.
A lot of teens can benefit from taking part in a school play, trying out for the varsity basketball team, playing for a worship band, or writing for the student paper. They get a hands-on experience while managing to explore their interests. I’ve even heard of many teens who found their passion in life just by getting involved in such activities.
However, I firmly advise parents and pastors to set standards and rules for their teen-agers, yet still remain open to discussion. Talk about staying within certain boundaries. A teen-ager’s life should be balanced and even-keeled, which means not spending an inordinate amount of time on one activity.
Talk freely about other crucial issues that concern teens, such as curfews, using the phone responsibly, maintaining good grades, what clothes are appropriate to wear, etc.
Having said all of these, I would like to lead you to my final point: the right relationship with God and the proper guidance from parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors will make teens want to socialize while keeping their boundaries. And what are the results? An enhanced sense of self-esteem, less stress, and less headaches for the trusted adults in the lives of the young teen-agers.