Dating can be one of the most exciting things you will do during your teen years. The thought of someone that you really like also liking you can be very exciting! It can also raise a lot of questions. Maybe you're already going out with someone, or want to start dating, but are not sure if now is the right time. Here are some questions to ask yourself, along with tips, to see if you are ready to date:

Do your parents and friends know about the person you are dating?

Healthy relationships are never a secret. When you are dating someone, you are bringing them into your life. If you are keeping this love interest a secret from those around you, this is a big sign that you're not ready to date. If your parents, friends, and others know about your relationship, way to go! You are on the path to having a healthy relationship.

What is your age difference?

Generally, it's a good idea to date someone who is either in your same grade, or is one or two grade levels above or below you in school. The younger you are, the better it is to date someone the same age as you. The older you become, the less age will become an issue. This is also a really good topic to talk to your parents about, as they might have their own age rules for dating.

Do you have boundaries in your relationship?

A boundary is a line you have created that you will not cross. It's a list of things you will not do. It's so important to create your boundaries BEFORE you're in the situation. Why is this so crucial?

Let's talk about Katie, a 17 year old junior in high school who is on her way to a date with her boyfriend, Kevin, at his friend's house. When Katie shows up at the house, she sees alcohol is present and Kevin's friends are drinking. Katie has never setup boundaries in regards to alcohol, and she's not sure if she should leave or stay. As she's sitting on the couch, she's thinking, “What should I do? Should I leave? Should I stay? Should I drink?" Someone hands her an alcoholic beverage and hesitantly she takes a sip. With no boundaries set beforehand, Katie does not know how far is too far.

Now let's talk about Erica, a 17 year old junior in high school who started dating her boyfriend, Chris, three months ago. Early in their relationship, Erica and Chris were talking about dates they could go on, and Erica told him, “I love going to movies and shopping at the mall, but I won't go to any house parties or any place that has alcohol." Tonight, Chris receives a text from a friend inviting him and Erica to a house party. However, Chris remembers that Erica does not go to places where alcohol is available. So he texts his friend, “Sorry, we've got other plans," and instead goes to see a movie.

There is a lot to be learned from Katie and Erica about the importance of setting boundaries. A good way to begin setting your own is to write down five boundaries for your current relationship or for a future relationship. Then talk about your boundaries with your boyfriend/girlfriend and with your parents.

​Do you do things without your boyfriend/girlfriend?

While hanging out with the person you're dating is fun, you also need time away as well. A healthy relationship is when two people decide they want to be together. Healthy people have their own friends, hobbies, and activities that they enjoy. Healthy couples hang out together, but they also do things without each other. Don't lose sight of who you are as an individual when you start a dating relationship. Make sure you continue to do the things that you love doing—you will be a more confident and happy person if you do!