Dating in High School
by Kaitlin Coyle
Imagine this: a young, well-dressed man rings the doorbell. As his suitor emerges, they exchange the proper salutations. He opens the car door for her. He gives her his jacket when it’s cold. He is a perfect gentleman and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, imagine this: a group of seven teenagers are at the movies. The unspoken tension between two of them is obvious. They like each other. They like each other a lot. Laughing and shouting, their friends subtly try to push the two toward each other. It ends in chaos.
Though dramatically different, both scenarios are completely natural. High school dating has no routine, no habit, and no pattern. It’s different for everyone. More important are the benefits that come alongside. Here are just four reasons high school dating is good for teenagers.
The Benefits of High School Dating
Benefit #1: Together Time. According to Dr. Lisa Damour, a psychologist and director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, “the main benefit of teen dating, whether it be in a group or as a pair, is that the dating teens are spending ‘in person’ time together.” In the world of dating, face-to-face interaction is eventually inevitable. High school dating relaxes the barrier that social media seems to create. Teenagers are able to experience companionship that extends far beyond Facebook and Instagram.
Benefit #2: Experience. Think of high school as a training ground. Teens who experience a variety of relationships in high school will be more prepared for college and adulthood. High school dating exposes people to different personalities, different traits, and different ways of life. Through experimentation, teenagers are able to scramble through a jungle of identities, discovering what works and what doesn’t.
Benefit #3: Identity Check-in. Adolescence is all about the questions. It’s about, “Who am I?” and, “Who do I want to be?” It’s about, “What are my good qualities?” and, “How should I change?” Spending romantic time with another person reveals a lot. How two people treat each other reflects who they are as human beings. Although the path to self-discovery might be onerous, dating helps to push past the roadblocks.
Benefit #4: Positive Qualities. Let’s take a hypothetical situation: a boy asks a girl to a dance. She’s nervous—she’s never been on a date before. After the dance, he tries to kiss her. He goes too far, and she tells him. He backs off. They talk for the rest of the night. Her parents wanted her home by midnight; she’s back by 11:59. In a few short hours, the boy and the girl have mastered three important qualities: communication, respect, and responsibility. Teens who learn positive habits while dating in high school often carry those skills into adulthood, making it easier to develop healthy, long-lasting relationships.
Despite the advantages of high school dating, it’s necessary to know when to draw the line. Damour advises adults to, “talk to parents of slightly older teens about current dating conventions so that they have a realistic yardstick for what to expect for their own teen’s dating life.” If you’re worried, talk. Talk to your friends, talk to an expert, and talk to your teenager. Communication is vital. Also learn to recognize the signs of trouble in your teenager’s dating relationship.
Maybe your teenager isn’t interested in dating. If that’s the case, dislodge the nagging fear that your teen will die in the company of twenty-seven cats. Everyone is different. Your goal is to support your teen, while still looking out for his or her best interests. It’s easier said than done, but with communication and compromise,both you and your teenager can appreciate the true advantages of high school dating.
Kaitlin Coyle is a student at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and former intern for Your Teen Magazine.