What guidance does the Bible provide?
The dating world of middle school students and the dating world in biblical times are vastly different. Dating may not be a topic that is explored much in the Bible, but some principles can be used to help guide dating. Dating should be something that is helping to prepare a student for marriage. In our current world, dating can often lead to just using another person, especially for physical affection. Not only can dating be used to fulfill a physical needs, but there can be a lot of long-term damage when dating is going wrong. When we let people into our lives and our hearts, it can shape us, and that can be positive or negative. When you talk to your students, let them know of the risks of dating, because risks are often something that they don't see or consider. For example, Ephesians 5:3 says, "But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints"(HCSB). Dating is something that should be done by mature students, that can take responsibility for their actions, and can make wise decisions. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart"(ESV). The point of fleeing youthful passions is seen in the Song of Solomon when the Bible talks about not stirring up love until the time is right (Song of Solomon 8:4) Again, the whole point of dating is to find the person that you will marry, and so any principles that the Bible teaches about marriage can help apply to the dating world. Maturity is needed in dating, and so there is no definitive answer as to when students should be dating.
Things to think about:
First things first, it is a little scary to think that your little child is now a student who is interested in dating. The good news is, every parent before you have had to work through this time of life, so you are not alone. If your student is interested in dating then it is important to make sure that you have talked to them about sex and their body (Link to EP article). Dating in middle school is something that may not necessarily look like dating in high school or college. After talking with your student about sex and their body, here are some other topics of conversation that are needed:
- Why do you want to date?
- What does dating look like to you?
- What is the purpose of dating?
- Can you handle dating on top of your other responsibilities?
- Do you have someone in mind to date, if so who? And why them?
- When you start having these types of conversations it helps you as a parent understand their world a little bit better. It also allows you to speak into their life and explain the purposes of dating, and what it looks like to find a godly person to date.
What do I do now?
Once you have had some of these conversations, you as a parent need to evaluate if your student is ready to date. The reason that most middle school students don't date, and shouldn't date is because they are not mature enough. They are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of dating along with other responsibilities, such as school work, sports, and spiritual life. Secondly, most middle school students are not mature enough to handle a breakup. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your students maturity:
- Is my student mature enough to handle dating and other responsibilities?
- Does my student have deep, healthy friendships?
- Can my student emotionally express himself/herself in a healthy way?
- Is my student mature enough to handle the complexities of dating?
- Is my student mature enough to handle a breakup?
If you do decide that your student is ready, then be prepared to have boundaries, clear communication, and follow up. However, if you have decided not to let your student date sit them down and explain to them why. Explain to them how you want them to continue to grow more intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, before they start dating. Students may disagree and state that "everyone is dating", and that is simply not true. Most middle school students are not ready to date, and it is ok not to date. Do what is best for your student, not what helps them to "fit in".
Want to go deeper?
Five Truths on Teenage Dating - Great resource with links to other helpful articles on teen dating
Guidelines for Dating - Christian article about teenage dating and setting guidelines
Reasons to Save Dating till After High School - Christian article about dating and waiting till adulthood