No matter how much you want to protect and isolate your child from the world around them, they are going to be influenced by their friends, the media, movies, books, songs… everything around them.
Part of what they will be exposed to is a sense of dating and romantic involvement; boyfriends and girlfriends “hooking up” … and perhaps more. Even physically, there are some preteens who look like they are well into their teens—especially girls.
So what should you do if your son or daughter starts to become interested in the opposite sex as a tween? The following information and advice can help you make smart, age-appropriate decisions with your child.
Advice On Tween Dating & Preteen Dating
Define The Limits
What does a “date” mean to your tween? Most likely it will refer to a group of kids going to the movies—and if that’s what you are going to allow then that needs to be clear. Group situations like this should be fine (a trip to the movies shouldn’t cause you too much consternation and will be funyou’re your tween). If this is a group situation, find out who else is going and volunteer to drop off or pick up a few of the kids, including your child’s “date.” Make yourself involved so that you get to see who is going and overhear some tidbits that might be important for you to know.
Know Who Your Tween Likes
If your child gets asked on a “date,” you should definitely make sure you know who the “date” is. If you have never met the other child before, have him or her come over so that you can get to know them. Do not let your tween out by themselves on a “date” with someone you haven’t met.
Don’t Be Afraid To Chaperone
Our advice is always insist on a chaperone. Even a group of tweens should be chaperoned. Sure, they can watch a movie by themselves, but a parent should be there to pick them up afterwards. The same applies for other similar group activities where an adult is not required to be present; make sure you drop them off and pick them up.
Teach Your Child Boundaries
Talk to your child about their expectations and how to handle certain situations. For example, you should talk to your child about not doing anything he or she does not want to do, how to say no, how to act with dignity, how to respect other people’s wishes, and how to get out of an uncomfortable situation. By having an ongoing dialogue with your child from an early age, many “tween problems” never ever raise their ugly head!
Make Sure You Can Contact Your Tween
Always make sure you have a way to contact your child. A cell phone is often the easiest way. You can also set up a useful code that might prevent them from feeling embarrassed; such as “How did Aunt Liz go at the hospital” means “come and pick me up ASAP.” (NB – This code works well for the teen years, too.)
A Date Should Always Be Doing Something
During the tween years, a date should mean they are going to do something. It doesn’t have to cost money; it could be riding bicycles, playing tennis or going for ice cream… but it has to be doing something. “Hanging out” at someone’s house unsupervised is not an option. This can lead to a potentially uncomfortable situation or physical contact.
If your child does not want to go on a date or is not interested in the opposite sex, this is completely normal. Going on dates is usually a behavior within a particular peer group. If your son’s friends are happier playing basketball with the guys or your daughter’s friends would prefer hanging out listening to music with the girls, it’s perfectly age-appropriate (and we would suggest all the better).