For instance, Atkins suggests asking your child why they think someone acted the way they did, and whether they made a good or healthy choice. It's your job, as their parent, to figure out if your child is ready to handle the level of dating they have in mind.

parenting and teen dating-87

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.

"Parents can be so uncomfortable with the idea of their kid becoming more grown up -- we wish our kids could stay kids," Atkins says.

"The problem with that attitude is that your kid still is a kid.

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.

Instead, if they answer your questions or seem eager to date, you can steer the conversation toward reassuring them that these feelings are normal. Are they just trying to keep up with their friends?

Are they confident and able to take care of themselves? Do they look physically more mature than they are, emotionally?

“Of course it will probably be uncomfortable for both of you,” Anthony says.