I just cringe when I hear the word “date” or “going out” from a child. Especially from kids not yet in high school. It just seems unnatural. Dating is reserved for teens and adults, right?
Most of the time it’s innocent fun. Boy likes girl, girl likes boy, and suddenly they are “dating.” This might go on for a week or so, maybe even a month. But prior to high school, this romance is usually short-lived.
For my boys, this never happened before high school. And so far, I’ve been lucky that it hasn’t happened with my daughter. But I’m dreading the day because I know that “it begins” when that happens.
My reason for writing this post is that kids are growing up too fast. Pre-teens look up to teenagers as their role models. They want to do what they see their older brothers and sisters doing. When this goes wrong, you get sexually-transmitted diseases, teen pregnancies, and more.
What seems like harmless fun can get out of control if parents do not pay attention. Here is my list of what dating should mean, and what it shouldn’t mean, for pre-teens. I’m an old-fashioned guy so I’ll be pretty conservative.
|Should Mean||Should Not Mean|
|Seeing each other at school||Skipping school together|
|Talking to each other on the phone||Secretive texting, Facebook messages, and such|
|Holding hands||Kissing (or worse)|
|Going somewhere with parents||Being dropped off somewhere like the movies or a party|
|Passing love notes||Sending indecent pictures or videos|
|Giving small gifts||Exchanging expensive or elaborate gifts|
|Short-lived romance||Long-term, unhealthy commitment|
If your pre-teen has slipped into the “should nots” of dating, how do you correct it? After all, it’s a natural part of growing up.
- First, do not be intimidated or afraid to step in. Your children need boundaries for dating and they expect you to set them.
- Contact the other parent if necessary. This might be a simple misunderstanding. If both sets of parents are on the same page then resolution should be straightforward.
- Tell your child what is OK and what is not OK. This might not be the right time for the birds and bees talk. However, you can tailor your talk to fit your child’s age.
- Evaluate your interactions with your child. Dad, this is especially important with girls. Are you giving them loving physical affection? Do you build up their self-esteem through genuine praise and compliments? If not, your child might be seeking this elsewhere. Meg Meeker talks about this in her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.
- Finally, step in and apply restrictions if all else fails.
Your pre-teen will grow up faster than you think. You understand that their life is just beginning and that there will be many relationships. In my opinion, dating is reserved for those just a little older. Your child needs to see a loving parental response from you at this early age. If that happens, their chances for healthy relationships later in life will be that much better.
Application Question – Do you feel like boy-girl relationships are OK between pre-teens?