Children are dating earlier and earlier, but when your child dates depends on a number of factors. For many, their culture and the individual will determine when their child can date. Other people believe that when a child reaches double digits in their age, they are old enough to begin dating.
But should ten year olds date? That question has no simple answer, and really depends on your rules, your child’s maturity, and how they define dating.
Today, the dating world is harder and more complicated than ever, even for children. Knowing what you are comfortable with can help you- and your child- navigate the waters.
Is It Illegal for Ten Year Olds to Date?
There is no law about when children can be allowed to date; however there are many laws regarding who children can date and what children can do with whom they date. For example it is illegal for a 10 year old to date an 18 year old, and children under a certain age cannot consent to sexual activity.
Furthermore, where you live can also dictate the age of consent for your child to date and engage in any sexual conduct. Some states have laws that prohibit a 10 year old from dating a 13 year old. Others allow children, of any age, to not only date, but to also get married.
Before you allow your child to date, you should check out your state’s laws. Then, you should read what psychologists say about children dating.
The Psychology Behind Dating
Before many children even begin middle-school, they know their sexual orientation. Even if they don’t act on it, they are aware of it and that helps them start to build an idea of who they would like as a partner. This means that 10 year olds know if they like boys or girls, and they are starting to figure out what type of boys or girls they would like as a future partner.
When children date, they are forming bonds with their peers, more than anything. If the word “date” bothers you, you can always choose to rephrase it as “spending time with a friend.” In reality, when a 10 year old “dates,” it really is just spending time with friends. It is not the same as dating to find a life-long mate or dating because of attraction. If you notice that your child is showing behaviors beyond just spending time with friends, then you should have a talk with them about what is and is not age-appropriate.
Should 10 Year Olds Date?
When you think of your own history with dating, what age did you have your first boyfriend? For most people, it was around middle school (or ages 11-13). Now, consider that some 10 year olds can (and do) mature faster than some 13 year olds and it could be considered perfectly acceptable for a 10 year old to date.
For most, even those with boyfriends or girlfriends at earlier ages, the first kiss happens at 15 years old. So, when you think of your young child in a relationship, it’s important to remember that, for kids, dating is generally not about kissing and sexual activity.
The question you should ask is “is my 10 year old mature enough to date” and then ask “what does dating mean for my 10 year old”. If the answer to the first question is “no” then you should not let your 10 year old date.
If the answer, however, is “yes” then you should have a talk with your child about what they want in a relationship at this age. Are they just best friends with their “partner” or is it a feeling of first crush? When you know what they are feeling and thinking, you can help them navigate how to go about their relationship.
An important tip to remember is to try not to put an age on dating, especially if you have more than one child. Your child may not be ready to date at 10 years old, but if you have set an age limit to keep them from dating until they turn 15, you may be limiting them if they are mature enough to date at 13. Furthermore, if you have one child that is mature at 13, your other child may not be ready until 15. You want to support them both and allow them to express themselves on their terms and in their own time.
How Do You Stop a 10 Year Old from Dating?
If you do not want your child to date, at all, even if it is harmless and they can handle it, you can stop it. You are the parent and in control.
First, make rules in your home about the age in which you will allow your child to start dating. Then, discuss those rules and why you have them. They should know your expectations, upfront, so they can follow the rules.
Then, you should have frequent talks with your child about their peers. Do their friends date? Does anyone in their class have a crush on them, or do they like anyone in their class? Discussing their feelings and working them out will help them be less impulsive and start “dating” behind your back.
Always be prepared for your child to pushback with “all my friends are doing it.” This is where you need to remind your child of your family’s values and rules, and tell them that every family is different.
Finally, if your child does “date” without your permission, you should have punishments in place. Think of this as any other household rule. You need to have a consequence ready in case it does happen. You should also talk to your child’s teacher if you feel that your child will hide their boyfriend or girlfriend from you and act on it at school. Let the teacher know your rules so that they can reinforce them at school.
Evaluate Your Reasons
While you are the parent and in control of what happens with your child and in your home, it may also be beneficial for you to evaluate why you do not want your child to date. Are they too young or immature? Or are you just uncomfortable with them dating?
While a 10 year old may be too young to date, you should keep in mind that when they get older, their peers will all be dating. It is a normal part of growing up and an essential developmental milestone. You do not want your fears to hold your child back, so you should be aware of what makes you not want them to date and work on a plan to get comfortable with them dating as they get older and more mature.
How to Allow My 10 Year Old to Safely Date
If you are okay with your child dating at 10 years old, you should at least have some ground rules and help your child date safely. As if dating isn't scary enough, it is important to know the facts-
1.) Roughly 33 percent of adolescents are victim to sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse
2.) Around 25 percent of high school girls have been abused physically or sexually.
3.) Females between the ages of 16-24 are roughly three times more likely than the rest of the population to be abused by a partner.
In order to keep your child from being part of these statistics, you should teach them about appropriate behaviors in partners and teach them about consent. Even if your child is not engaging in sexual activity, they need to know what consent is in order to keep them safe.
Another tactic to make sure your child is safely dating is to know where they are at all times with their date, and to discuss their boyfriend or girlfriend with them, openly, so that they feel comfortable talking to you. The last thing you want is your child hiding these things from you.
You should know how old your child’s partner is, and where they met them. For extra measure, you should also get to know the child’s parents and make sure they are aware of the relationship and at ease with it. You do not want to be the parent that helps hide a relationship from parents who do not allow their child to date.
When Your Child Is LGBTQ
When your child presents as LGBTQ, you will face a host of other problems and a new set of statistics:
1.) About 10 percent of high school students reported experiencing physical or sexual dating violence.
2.) Studies have shown significantly higher rates of dating violence among LGB youth than among non-LGB youth. With 42.8 percent of LGB youth reporting being physically abused by dating partners, as opposed to 29 percent of heterosexual youth.
3.) LGB youth reported sexual victimization at around 23.2 percent, nearly double that of heterosexual youth.
4.) Transgender youth reported the highest rates of dating violence, at 88.9 percent.
What this means is that if your child is LGBT, they are more likely to be abused by a partner than if your child were not LGBT. Taking extra precautions to keep them safe is smart. Talk with them, frequently, and explain what dating violence and sexual assault looks and feels like.
Furthermore, if your child is LGBT, you will want to create a home environment that is accepting of their sexual orientation so that they are comfortable coming to you with problems in their dating life. The last thing you want is for them to hide it from you.
Finally, depending on where you live, your child may not feel accepted by their peers or at school, and that can make navigating the dating world much harder. You will want to make sure they feel supported and included, so they do not seek romantic relationships in other areas, like with older people who may be child predators.
Age Appropriate Date Ideas
If you are okay with your child dating at 10 years old, you will want to come up with age appropriate activities they and their partner can do together. This keeps you in the loop and allows them fun outlets. For example, you can invite your daughter’s boyfriend to the bowling alley for a day of bowling with your family. This will give you the chance to meet the boyfriend, evaluate their relationship, and participate in the relationship so you (and they) know what to expect.
As your child gets older, you will want to give them more date ideas, but when they are under the age of 13, you will want to make sure an adult is present. Not only will this help your child stick to your rules, but it may be necessary. In some states, children are not allowed to be left unsupervised until 13 years of age or older.
Also, by chaperoning, you can help teach your child and their partner about proper dating etiquette. This will help them both as they get older and start dating more people.
What to Do When My Child’s Partner Is Older
A 15 year old dating a 17 year old is perfectly normal, but a 10 year old dating a 13 or 14 year old is inappropriate. No matter how mature your child s, they are not ready for the social pressures that can come with dating an older child they are not compatible with.
First, a 10 year old is still in elementary school, while most 14 year olds are in high school. That is a huge difference. Second, they will have different friends and activities they enjoy. That can put pressure on your child to grow up faster.
Girls who date older boys have reported feeling pressured to do sexual activities they were not ready to do, because they felt the boy had the control. For that reason, it may be best to keep child’s dating pool to only those they go to school with and are mentally and socially compatible with.
How to Help My Child With a Breakup
One positive aspect of a 10 year old having a boyfriend is that the relationship (most likely) will not last long. At this age, kids are not looking for something long-term and it is more fun than anything serious. That also means that they will get over breakups much easier. This is a time where you can help them handle rejection and breakups so that when they do get older, and they do experience heartbreak, they will be better equipped to handle it.
You can help them through a breakup by talking to them about rejection, what it feels like, and how they can process it. Let them know that they can come to you with any feelings they may have, and that you will always be there to listen. This will help you establish that bond and relationship before they reach their teen years, when it is important to be kept in your child’s life, as much as possible, in order to help prepare them for adulthood- and a bigger, scarier dating world.