Memories of “couples” standing next to the bus, kissing, linger in my middle school memories. Tongue kissing was an important way to earn status. Moms, experienced teachers in your girls’ schools will confirm that kids are talking about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships earlier than ever. You need to talk to your girl about dating early, maybe fourth grade. Because really, you don’t want to be the only who isn’t talking to her about it. Holly of www.5things.us agreed to share her post on tween dating with us (do you remember her awesome post on slumber parties?). It is oozing with advice I’ve never thought of and that have guided in whenever God opens up the topic of boys. If you have a tween or teen daughter you need to check out Holly’s blog–she knows so many things I didn’t even know I needed to know. Take note of what tween dads had to say about dating here. From Holly:
Boyfriends and dating feel so important to some middle schoolers. Some feel defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend. Parents should talk to their daughter about dating before it is hot topic in her world. Here are some things to cover.
1. Find out what “dating” and “boyfriend” mean at your kids’ school. It may mean actually going to the skating rink or movies with a boy, or it may mean you stop talking and feel awkward around each other in the hallways (this is my preferred definition in 6th grade!).
2. Ask her WHY she wants a boyfriend. What is her motive? Listen to what she says. Have her answer the actual pros and cons of having a boyfriend in middle school. If she understands the WHY of something, she is more likely to listen to you, or at least understand your decisions. Remember, some middle schoolers are defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend. Middle school is an awkward uncertain time, and fitting in and social status are fairly important to most. Some want a boyfriend just because she feels incomplete or out of the social scene if she doesn’t have one. Ask a girl, “Do you really enjoy him, or do you like who you are because of having a boyfriend?” If she really likes him, good, if you suspect social statues issues, you have much to talk about. Either way, go over these next 5 points with her.
3. Share the value of waiting. Show her the big picture, where do certain activities fit in age appropriately? What are the pros and cons of dating? of waiting?
Draw a line that represents 6th grade to the end of college. I’m starting in 6th grade because that’s where I’ve seen forms of dating start. In 6th grade, tweens are 11 or 12 years old.
Instead of just saying a big fat NO to your tween, show her why you might want her to wait. Consider this– sometimes a girl actually feels like this particular 6th grade boy will last forever, so for the sake of the argument, let’s assume it will last. So if she starts “dating” in some form in 6th grade, even if she got married VERY early, let’s say after high school, that’s 7 years of dating. If she got married after college that’s 11 years or so of dating. The average age to get married is age 25, so make that 14 years of dating possibly. The line above is just a visual of all the years to get through, for both you and your tween, if boyfriends start in 6th grade.
She will either date for a very long time, or she will break up. When she starts to date, those are her options- marrying or breaking up. Dating one person exclusively long term is a very mature decision, and one that will cause your tween to miss out on many fun friend activities because of being so busy with a boyfriend. Also, the harder truth for a tween to hear is this- Unless she is at a marrying age, her dating relationship is probably not going to last. And breakups involve emotions, heartbreak, etc.
4. Teach her how dating is giving her heart away. Consider it this way, what is more helpful to your daughter, to practice giving her heart away, to a probable immature person who will most likely hurt it? Or to practice protecting and caring for her heart, knowing the value of relationships? Constant early dating is a form of practicing the beginning and endings of relationships. After so much of that, the heart can get beat up.
Our girls’ hearts are valuable and by design they love to give their heart away to love. Knowing how and when to do that is worth talking about. As they grow up, protecting the value of their heart and who they give it to is an important part of life. For believers, giving their heart and love to Jesus will bring much more fulfillment to their lives than a boy will. As parents, we can teach them to protect their emotions, and to know that watching over their heart is a meaningful thing. At some point, giving her heart away to another person will be the right thing to do! It helps for her to know that. It’s all about timing.
5. “You can like them, but is doesn’t mean you need to do anything about it” –Share these wise words from my husband who is a great dad. Is it really harmful to have a boy that you like at 12? I know there’s no way you can “stop” your tween from liking a boy. You can’t control her emotions. She’s going to have feelings for people, but talking through and understanding this whole timeline with your girls will help them make better decisions, or at least understand your decisions. Telling her that it okay to say to a boy who asks her out, “I’m not interested in dating now, but I can be your friend,” may give her an option she didn’t know she had.
6. Friends are valuable and generally last longer. Even if a girl is very mature and has a quality guy she likes, ask these questions: Would you rather take the chance dating, or would you rather keep him for a really good friend? It’s easy for a really good strong friendship to later become a dating relationship. It’s much harder to recover a lost friendship after dating too soon and hurting the relationship.
If she really likes him, tell her to keep him as a friend for awhile. Take things slowly. Be friends. Be whole yourself. I teach my girls that other people’s hearts are valuable and fragile and not to be played with. I don’t want boys using my girls to just get what they want. I don’t want my girls doing that to boys.
7. It’s easier to delay freedoms, than to allow freedoms then have to step backwards, especially when there are many years left to get through. Whenever boyfriends or dating do start, look at it in perspective of that line above. Know that they will be living at home until at least 12th grade, and things only escalate.
Are boys evil? No. Definitely not. Are dates evil? No. Would my kids have survived unscathed if we had let them go to that 6th grade double date movie? Maybe. Probably. But our decision was based on the principle of this question- why even start the dating process then? For us, it’s too young and tweens have not matured enough to handle each other’s hearts responsibly. The earlier you awaken and encourage the desire for a boyfriend, the longer and harder the road until marriage. On the other hand, if they grow up nurturing friendships and learning about themselves, they will probably be happier and have a little less heartbreak.
Now I’m not speaking of boy friendships. I know that sometimes for girls, boys can make better friends than girls because of the middle school girl meanness. Boys are less dramatic. Then again, all the men I know say the boy always secretly likes the girl. The great debate, I don’t think we can solve here. This blog is addressing boyfriends. In early tween teen years.
Some parents have a certain number that is the dating age. 15, 16, 18. That works well for many. We don’t have a certain number, for us it depends on the daughter, the boy, and the situation.
More fights happen between girls, about boys, than anything else. So much drama is wrapped up in dating life.Gee whiz, adults can barely handle relationships, why do we think 12 year olds can?