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A huge red kiss was on our son’s card. What?  Oh no. A girl is sweet on our son, James? I’m not prepared for my son to be dating. He was just a baby the other day and now he has girls leaving kisses on his stuff?! Dr. Leman, please help me prepare for the hanging out/dating years.


When I, Doug, was a dating teenage boy,  I was completely selfish and dating girls was all about me being happy. I remember telling one girl, “If it isn’t fun, why are we together?” Rarely did I care about how my words or actions hurt the girls I dated. When the girl stopped being fun, the relationship stopped with no regard about her or her feelings. Yes, I was a jerk.

Now as a father, I know what boys are like.  Eventually they are going to want to date my daughters. Oh No! Hopefully, they only date people like their mother.

The question we explore with Dr. Leman is, “How do I prepare my kids for healthy dating, or hanging out?”

Is it Dating or Hanging out?

Traditional dating is when a boy calls the girl and asks her out for a date. He drives to her house, possibly talks to the date’s parents. They go somewhere intentionally like a movie, restaurant or a hike. He drives her home.

Hanging out means the guy and girl met somewhere, like the mall. They might walk around the mall. They might go out to eat. It is more casual and spontaneous.

When is my child old enough to date/hang out

Dr. Leman does not encourage dating/hanging out prematurely, but he does encourage parents to dialogue with their kids when they start to show an interest in the opposite sex. The age of your child should not be the measure, instead, maturity of your child has a lot more to do with when they should date/hang out. Tell them when they show enough maturity to handle it, then they can date.

What do I do when they do show an interest in dating?

If your child is showing an interest in someone, be gracious and ask about them. Use phrases like, “I hear you talking about Michelle a lot. She must be an impressive girl for you to talk this much about her. Tell me more about Michelle.”

Encourage them to be in your home. Offer to buy pizza and a movie for Michelle and the gang to come over. Work hard to make your home a center of fun, so your kids will bring their girlfriends and boyfriends to the house. If you are going on a family outing to dinner, ask your son if Michelle would like to come with the family.

Talk to your child about your dating years. Talk about your Puppy Love and the Crushes you had. Share how you went through phases and strange ideas as your matured. Mention that they may go through a similar process.

What if my kid isn’t ready to date?

Remind them that “B doesn’t happen till A”. In this case, B is dating and A is their level of maturity. Lovingly show them how they aren’t ready yet to date if they are not showing enough maturity yet.

Tips when dating

Courtesy will never go out of style.  Encourage your kids to show respect. One way to show respect is to have your kid talk with the other parents before they start dating.

As a young man, go into your date’s home, introduce yourself to the parents and tell them where you are going. It is proper. Additionally, it will help you in the long run with their parents.

Action Steps for Parents

  1. Start early talking about dating, the good and the bad.
  2. Notice when they talk about the opposite sex.
  3. Maturity decides when they date, not age.
  4. You model to your kids what a healthy relationship looks like. They will mimic your relationship.

Parenting Tip/ Pocket Answer

Maturity, Not Age


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Podcast by: Dr. Kevin Leman with Doug & Andrea Terpening    Post by: Doug Terpening