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    Are You Ready to Go Out?

    4 questions to answer -- and how to deal with your parents if they think you're not ready to date.

    Question Two: Do You Really Like This Person?

    Now focus on the person you like. Why do you like him/her? Is it because he/she is good looking? If so, that's not enough.

    "You have to share some common interests," Gowen says. You also want to be with someone who will treat you right, she says.

    How can you tell? One clue is the way they treat their friends, teachers, and parents.

    If you're not totally sure about this person, ask yourself if it's worth getting into the relationship. Also get your friends' input about whether the person is worth your time.

    Question Three: Is He/She Right for You?

    One very important question you need to ask yourself is whether this person is safe for you to date. 

    Girls who've set their sights on older guys, beware. Dating a guy who's in high school when you're still in middle school, or who's a senior when you're still a freshman might seem cool, but it could get you into a lot of trouble.

    "Just because a girl looks like she's 16 when she's only 11, it doesn't mean that psychologically or emotionally she's ready to date older boys... they are so much more skilled at this dating game than she would be, and they can manipulate her and hurt her," says Laura Choate, EdD, a licensed professional counselor, associate professor of counselor education at Louisiana State University, and author of the book, Girls' and Women's Wellness: Contemporary Counseling Issues and Interventions.

    "There's a big difference between a seventh-grader and a ninth-grader when it comes to experimentation," Gowen says. By the time they're in high school, guys may have gone a lot further than you're ready to go. 

    In fact, Gowen did a study of girls who had older boyfriends, and she found that freshmen girls who dated junior or senior boys were more likely to go further, and to be forced into doing things they didn't want to do. 

    A good rule of thumb is not to date anyone who is more than one grade ahead of you, Choate says.


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