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“If you pretended to be somebody else, your friends would go, ‘Whoa, why are you acting so weird?

’” Also, there’s no need to pre-arrange that cellphone call to get you out of a date you’re not enjoying.

This causes parents to worry, and rightly so, as many kids are uncomfortable with or unable to handle the intimacy that comes with slow dancing or mixed-gender pyjama parties.

But in terms of friendships between boys and girls, Connolly says that simply having friends of both sexes can be healthy and positive.

“We call it group dating, and we believe it can be really healthy and protective,” says Jennifer Connolly, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto who specializes in teen relationships.

Connolly, who has two adolescent daughters of her own, says that group dating is growing in popularity everywhere, including China and India.

Becoming a “couple” Don’t panic, but the experts say “going out” often begins in grade five, with one or two couples in a class.

A couple may never see or speak to each other outside of school, although they may well enjoy the new status accorded them by their peers.

These types of short-lived pairings — relationships in name only — jump in numbers by grades six and seven, when alcohol increasingly becomes part of many parties.

” Catherine: “OK.” The two Toronto-area teens have been going out since last April, although rarely on their own.

In their group of eight friends, the four boys and four girls are paired off into couples, but prefer to spend their time all together, sitting around and talking at one another’s houses, grabbing something to eat, going to a movie. “We just feel better when we’re together,” Catherine explains.

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