Ten dating

Even if it seems like everyone around you has paired off, you want to go out with someone for the right reason -- because you really like that person. You also want to be with someone who will treat you right, she says. One clue is the way they treat their friends, teachers, and parents.

"The motivation to be drawn to this person is based on who they are as an individual ... If you're not totally sure about this person, ask yourself if it's worth getting into the relationship.

Before you ask out the object of your affection, or say, "yes" to someone who's interested in you, go through this checklist of questions to make sure you're ready to handle whatever might happen in your new relationship.

About half of 15- and 16-year-olds say they've dated, but just because you've reached a certain age doesn't really mean you're ready to date.

Are you also mature enough to handle the rejection that can come in a relationship? On the flip side, if you were the one having to do the breaking up, could you do it in a firm, but kind way?

"Any time you open yourself to somebody, whether it's emotionally or physically, and then they reject you -- it's going to hurt," Gowen says. Don't base your readiness to date on what your friends are doing. "You have to share some common interests," Gowen says.

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.

ANY TIME someone you're dating demeans you, forces you to do something you don't want to do, or hits you -- get out of that relationship. By dressing sexy to impress your date or acting in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you lose your sense of self.

This is the all-important question, because if your parents say "no," you're not going to get very far.

It could be because they're very conservative, or because they remember how they acted during their own teen years.

"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, Ed D, 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.

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"Don't be alone with a person you don't know very well until you feel more comfortable with that person," Choate says. Know exactly where you're going, what's happening every step of the way.

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