Mark Twain

once said, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years." When it comes to dating, your kids may tell you you're out of touch, imply you don't know what's cool, or say modern dating is different from back in the old days when you were dating. You, however, know better.

Sure technology and styles are different now than they were decades ago, but the mechanics of dating remain the same. Boys and girls like each other. They want to spend time hanging out. Eventually this is going to lead somewhere. You can help make sure your teenagers are led to the right somewhere by suggesting smart, fun dating ideas. Here's a list to get started.

Start with group dates

. This helps alleviate the awkward date conversations (or lack thereof) that arise when two inexperienced teenagers go on a date by themselves. Group dates relieve the pressure on both the boy and the girl to be attentive and entertaining for the entire duration of the date activity. In the beginning, you may not feel comfortable letting your son or daughter go out alone on dates when they're so young and unaware of dating dangers. Group date ideas might include a trip to a water park, playing a sport, a group movie night, a picnic or pizza and board games.

Dates don't have to expensive

. Let your teens know that they can have just as much fun going on a scavenger hunt at the mall (which is free) as they can eating at some fancy restaurant (the opposite of free). Fun, cheap date ideas might also include playing Frisbee golf at the park, caroling at a nursing home, doorbell ditching treats at a neighbor's house or stargazing and marshmallow roasting.

Think outside the box

. It's easy to go with the old standby, dinner and a movie. However, in order for your teens to really form good, wholesome relationships, they ought to try going out on dates that stretch them as individuals. Plus, the more accustomed teens get to a particular activity, the more likely they are to get bored and escalate their physical dating relationship to add spark. Some "outside the box" ideas are flying kites, building and then playing on your own mini golf course or shopping for cheap, silly clothing that each person must then wear to a public place.

Don't underestimate the fun of service

. As soon as you mention the word "service," your teens are likely to roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, leave the room or do some combination of all three. But, service dates are great because not only are they fun, they also benefit someone besides the teen. Service date ideas will vary depending on the time of year. Some ideas are: raking leaves and then jumping in the piles before bagging them. Donating blood and then going out for ice cream. Volunteering at a children's fair as face painters.

Smart dating during the teenage years means your teens learn how to communicate more effectively, how to focus on more than just the physical aspect of attraction and how to build lasting friendships and relationships. Providing your kids with lists of date activities will give them the perfect place to start from.

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