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And early-onset dating is an important clue as to whether your child might be a high-risk taker, particularly if it is accompanied by poor grade performance.

But unlike substance abuse and depression—the two other horsemen of a teenage apocalypse—dating and grades are easier to spot and easier for parents to talk to their kids about.

The popular kids are not always the happiest kids nor are they always the nicest. Anyone who has ever been excluded knows that this has often been initiated by the popular kids. Nonetheless, kids who begin to date as young teens are more likely to have bad study habits, eventually develop substance use problems and are unfortunately more likely to drop out of school than teens who begin to date at later ages.

I am not sure why this is the case but I have some ideas.

She looked nonchalantly out her window as their car crossed a small bridge. “I would like to ask you a very personal question and give you the freedom not to answer if you don’t want to.” He paused, waiting for her reply. Our junior high and high school age teens don’t date anyone exclusively.

He smiled as he thought about all those after-school trips over the last few years: dance classes, piano practices, the unending cycle of softball games and tournaments.

We all have had and continue to have friends who drop us when they are in a dating relationship.

Spring has sprung and love is in the air – even if you’re in middle school. If you’re the parent of a middle schooler and the topic of dating has come up, it probably left you fretting over questions like these: - What does dating so young say about my child’s personality in the long run?

- What if the emotional side of dating scars my child or sets them up for future bad relationships?

- What if my child gets a bad reputation for dating early?