Parents often expect their teens to date in high school. Even parents who prefer that their teens not engage in exclusive relationships often want their teens to participate in group dates. But when a teen isn’t interested in dating, it can be concerning to some parents.
Often, the belief is that teens need to date in high school to develop greater social skills. Also, many parents worry that teens who don’t date are late bloomers who will suffer from loneliness, depression, and social anxiety.
While some teens may need help when in this situation, there is new research that may help alleviate some parents’ worries about their teen not dating in high school.
What The Research Says About High Schoolers Who Don’t Date
A new study published in the Journal Of School Health may help you be less worried about your teen who isn’t interested in dating right now. This study had data for a group of students from their sixth grade year up to twelfth grade.
While there were many similarities between those students who chose to date and those who did not, the children who opted out of dating experienced less depression and had greater social skills.
Now, that may sound counterintuitive, as it has been supposed that dating built up these skills. But let’s dive into why it may be better for teens to wait to date seriously.
Teens, Dating, And Depression
The teenage years are often considered tumultuous, and dating can certainly make things tougher on your teen. Consider how difficult you found dating, even as an adult. Now, imagine what those feelings of excitement, love, frustration, jealousy, and all the other emotional highs and lows are like for an inexperienced teen. Overwhelming may just be the start.
Along with the emotional rollercoaster—which many teens lack the emotional stability to manage gracefully—teenage relationships don’t last long, generally speaking. While we adults may write it off as puppy love, for the teen experiencing the end of a relationship, the strong feelings are no less real and often painful. Rather than going through emotional highs and lows repeatedly, teens who don’t date are able to be far more emotionally stable.
Social Skill Development In Teens
In the study, the teachers of the dating and non-dating teens noted a difference in social skills. Those teens who dated—particularly those who engaged in serious, exclusive relationships—often lacked some general social interaction skills. This lack may be ascribed to the fact that the teens learned how to be social with just one person well, rather than learning how to interact with a variety of different people.
Also, many teens will skip out on social events to spend more time with their significant other. So, rather than develop things like leadership, teamwork, and other healthy social development skills, dating teens miss out, and non-dating teens reap the benefits.
Ways To Build Up Your Teen’s Social Skills
If you are still concerned that your teen’s lack of dating means they won’t develop the necessary social skills, there are things you can do to help your teen build up those qualities.
- Encourage clubs and sports – A natural and easy way for your teen to meet others who can share some of their interests is through clubs and sports. For instance, say your teen joins a soccer league. Your teen can make friends with people from all walks of life while sharing the common bond of playing soccer.
- Volunteer together – Most organizations do not allow unaccompanied minors to volunteer alone. However, you and your teen can volunteer together, allowing your teen insight into the realities of the world while serving others.
- Open your home up – Sometimes, having a safe and open home to invite friends over to can help your teen blossom. By opening up your home to your teen and their friends, you can help facilitate their social growth.
- Attend therapeutic boarding school – Some teens experience other delays than just waiting to date. If other issues are holding your teen back, attending a therapeutic boarding school can help your teen develop greater confidence, a variety of skills, and self-esteem.
If you would like personalized advice concerning your teen’s behavior and counseling to see if a therapeutic boarding school would be a good fit, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.