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This is a prime opportunity to find out what they find appropriate and desirable in a romantic partner, says Crystal Reardon, director of counseling for Wake County Public School System. You have to respect your children’s feelings but also want to help keep them safe.”What to watch for: Girls usually don’t want to bring someone they’re just talking to home to their parents, say both Megan and Jennifer, so be prepared for some flak if you insist.“You never want the guy to think you’re going, ‘Oh, we’re dating, so I want you to meet them,’” Megan says.On the other hand, she adds, “if you’re really dating, at some point you absolutely do want your parents to meet him.”Events are a Group Experience Your teen doesn’t have to be dating or talking to anyone to have a date to the prom, winter formal or Sadie Hawkins dance.As prom season approaches, it’s easy to conjure romantic thoughts of dating rituals we experienced long ago.

Of course, kids who already have relationships — and even some still in the talking phase — will go with that special person, but still as part of a group. If that’s the case, the only thing you can do is offer support and perhaps plan a trip or outing for that night.Ed Parrish, a banker and father of four from Graham, has noticed that his 13-year-old son has started asking his older sister if her friend’s younger sister can join her on visits to the Parrish home. Sometimes, his son will go to the movies with guy friends and “meet up” with a group of girls from school, Parrish says.He feels comfortable with these early forays because “we’ve given him the talk about the need to respect young ladies and what we expect of him.”What to watch for: Cellphones and social media can lay traps for preteens and young teens.The New “Talking” Phase of Dating Kids today don’t plunge into dating without first going through the “talking to each other” phase.This means a boy and girl who feel an attraction spend time together, whether alone or in groups, then text and/or Snapchat in-between.She says as cringe-inducing as this conversation will be, it has to get done. “There’s something about not sitting next to each other on a couch that makes this easier for both you and your child.”Love Hurts, Regardless of Your Age Just because teens are more casual and sophisticated about dating doesn’t mean they don’t still suffer heartbreak.Even 14- and 15-year-olds can fall in love, Reardon says.“To a child or teenager who is experiencing this, it is very real and very important,” she says.This can mean discussing your family’s views on sex before marriage, as well as frank talk about abstinence, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.Case in point: There’s a myth in teen circles that you can’t get STDs from oral sex, Gurwitch notes.Hooking Up is Common and Accepted To college students, hooking up means having casual sex.For high schoolers, it can mean that, too, but usually refers to making out at parties or get-togethers.

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