Having a boyfriend or girlfriend and dating can be exciting. Experiencing new emotions and feelings towards others is a big part of puberty and growing up. It is normal for youth to want to have a dating relationship, but it is important for them to realize that some people never date.
It is possible to have good friendships without dating. There are no rules that say one must date, but some youth will feel pressure from their friends or the media. Others feel that dating will make them happier.
All Ali can talk about at dinner is Juan! She is absolutely and completely head over heels crushing on her classmate at school. They are both in the same senior high program and also ride the bus to school together. Ali’s family wonders if this is just a phase. There is a school dance coming up for Halloween and Ali says that this will be the night they kiss. Does Juan feel the same way about Ali? Does Ali know that kissing is only ok if the other person wants to do it too? Dating is serious stuff and Ali’s family doesn’t know where to start.
If the crush is on someone known by the youth, explain that the feelings do not need to be acted upon. It is ok to admire someone from a distance and simply to dream of what it would be like to be with that person.
It is important to teach that even when youth ask someone for a date, that person may say no. Be prepared to comfort your child/youth if they are rejected, and explain that dating is a choice and this is part of growing up and learning about relationships.
- Other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, employer).
- Sexual activity is exploitative (e.g., pornography, prostitution, trading sex for safety).
Children under the age of 12 cannot give consent. Consent is needed for all sexual activity ranging from kissing and touching to intercourse. To learn more about consent, click here.
Some families may want to chaperone the couple by supervising them on their date. Service providers can encourage discussions about dating and relationships by asking youth if they know what their families believe about dating.
Just like friendships, dating relationships should be healthy. Youth can learn about what makes a relationship healthy by watching the relationships around them. Healthy dating relationships should be fun and positive, building self-esteem and confidence. If a relationship is unhealthy, youth may need support to recognize that the relationship is having a negative effect on them. They may need some help to end the relationship because they do not know what to say or are fearful.
To learn more about healthy and unhealthy relationships, click here.
Some may think that sex is kissing or when two people roll around on the bed. Sexual activities can range from kissing and touching to intercourse. Not having a clear understanding of what sex involves can put youth at risk as they may take part in activities without knowing the consequences.
Consequences of a sexual relationship can include pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STI), negative emotions, and changes in the way family and friends perceive someone’s reputation.
Lofgren-Martenson, L. (2011). “I want to do it right!’’ A pilot study of Swedish sex education and young people with intellectual disabilities. Sexuality and Disability, 30(2):209 – 25.
SIECCAN. (2013). Confronting the stereotypes: Sex information and education for youth with physical disabilities. Retrieved from http://sexualityandu.ca/uploads/files/CTR_SexEducationforYouthwithPhysicalDisabilities_OCTOBER2013-ENG.pdf