When we moved into our house a few weeks ago, the little boy next door came over to meet my 10-year-old. He's 9, and I rejoiced that there was a potential playmate on our street for my TK-year-old daughter.
"There are lots of kids on our street," he assured me. "My girlfriend lives in that house, and she's eight."
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I tried to keep my eyebrows from sprinting skyward, but I couldn't believe this child called another little girl his "girlfriend." My daughter looked at me out of the corner of her eye; she knows that she isn't allowed to have a boyfriend until she's 16 — and even then, group dates only. Any insinutations of romance before then are stricly prohibited. I don't ever try to force my world views on other people's children, though, so I brushed past the topic and later addressed the conversation privately with my daughter.
When it comes to my children and preparing them for romance, I'm pretty conservative (if you haven't figured it out by now). Love, relationships and sex are all crucial events that can have a major impacts on someone's life and influence its path. I don't want to underprepare my kids.
Linda Sharps recently wrote a post on The Stir called "Cute Kid Moment or Too Close for Comfort?" about the internal freakout she had upon walking in on her 6-year-old son watching TV and cuddling with his good friend who happens to be a girl. Luckily the situation broke up before she had to intervene, but while many of the commenters called Sharps crazy for "overreacting" to something so innocent, the post — and Sharps' reaction — resonated with me.
I'll acknowledge that my approach is conservative, but with a daughter on the verge of a hormone tsunami, I'd rather be safe than sorry. I'm sure my daughter will someday resent me and my husband for our no-nonsense dating rules, but I'd never forgive myself if my lack of enforcement was mistaken as permission or approval for promiscuous behavior. I just don't find it cute — nor healthy — to allow children to mimic romantic affection as a form of play. Here are a few reasons.
1. Children should be practicing friendship skills. At a young age, children need to be learning non-romantic peer interactions: how to resolve disputes, consider the feelings of others and even stand up for themselves. These aren't easy skills — even for adults. If you allow or encourage kids to play at romance, before their platonic friendship skills have developed, they're going to venture into confusing situations. Their hearts are bound to be hurt by situations they're not mature enough to understand. How i my tk-year-old daughter going to deal when her "boyfriend" wants to "break up" on their two-day anniversary, or he won't hold her hand because it's sweaty? Those are small heartbreaks she's just not equipped to even consider yet.
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