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But it’s natural to worry that adolescents will try to grow up too fast or might not understand what they’re getting into.

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Meeting Dating Partners In addition to establishing an appropriate dating age for a child, a parent must have a guideline about the dating partner’s age.

Notice what "dating" seems to mean to your child and then talk about it.

Michelle Anthony, Ph D, a developmental psychologist and learning therapist in Denver, suggests an opening line like: “It sounds like a lot of kids are talking about dating now. ” If you can't tell what dating means to your kid, try discussing dating as shown on TV shows or in movies that are age-appropriate.

Parents may joke that it’s an experience they want their child to have -- just not until somewhere around the age of 30. A 6th grade girl may say, "Jacob is my boyfriend," but what does that mean?

Seriously, though, when is your child ready to date? "At this age, kids use dating labels but aren’t ready to have much direct one-on-one interaction beyond maybe sitting together at lunch or recess," says Dale Atkins, Ph D, a family therapist in New York.