Should Tweens Be Allowed To Date?


Should your kids be allowed to date? And what is "dating" in middle school, anyways?

By Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., Talking Teenage for

Your tween has a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe your tween tells you directly. Or perhaps, you found out from a friend, another parent, Facebook or by checking in on their texts.

You feel that moment of dread and panic.

How could this be? You're baffled.


How could he be going out with anyone? She’s too young, he’s too immature. And wait a minute -- going out? Where exactly could they be going? You are an involved parent, your tween doesn’t go anywhere without you having all the facts and ensuring there is always appropriate supervision. Save the freedom for his teen and young adult years! For now, you like her just where she is -- under your thumb!

First, take a deep breath.It is probably not what you are thinking. The tween definition of dating in many cases does not include going anywhere! In fact often, it doesn’t even involve any alone time. So, what is the tween definition of dating? These days, technology plays a major role.



What dating means to many tweens

Here's what I know from working with families and teens: Tween dating does follow some traditional rules. One tween for example, typically asks the other tween out. And yes, while women have equalized the playing field in many areas, it is still usually the guy who often asks the girl out. How he asks her,however, can vary. Face-to-face is still the preferred method but a text or IM is not unusual. The happy couple will demonstrate their commitment to each other by changing their social networking statuses from "single" to "n a relationship."


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The couple’s "together time" often consists of texting back and forth, and even an occasional chat on the phone. Maybe they have a quick conversation at their lockers or walk with each other to class. Birthday presents and holiday presents (especially Valentines) are exchanged. In some cases, the couple may even spend some time together going to a movie, or hang out at a party, with adult chaperones carefully looking on. Most often, couples just maintain their relationship through texts. Relationships can start and end within days or weeks. A long-term relationship is usually defined by a couple of months.

Is your tween ready to date?


Tween dating is certainly not for everyone. Because the developmental differences between kids is so individual at this stage in their lives, many tweens lack the desire and/or maturity to even think about coupling. It is not unusual, however, for older tweens to start spending time together in larger coed groups. Boy/girl parties are not uncommon, nor are group trips to go ice skating, skiing, to an amusement park, concert, or the premiere of a movie. Common meet-up places include the mall or local pizza place. Lots of times, parents will lurk in the background, doing their due diligence to ensure that the kids are having fun and behaving appropriately.


The most important thing parents can do

As a parent, you know the rule, never assume anything. If your tween asks to attend a group function it is always in your best interest to find out what the supervision will be like. If they are attending an event with kids whose parents you do not really know, offer to chaperone or at least connect with the responsible parents prior to the event.

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In many ways, it may feel like kids are growing up so much faster these days. The impact of the media cannot be ignored. Even television channels targeted at younger children depict tween romantic relationships. While these connections are usually an innocent case of ‘the likes,’ talking with your tweens about respecting oneself and others is important. If your tween is dating, be sure to have continued conversations at a developmentally appropriate level about the boundaries of their relationship especially in relation to physical contact, and especially sex.

Your tweens probably know more than you think. Although these types of conversations may be difficult or even embarrassing to have, better safe than sorry to discuss your concerns, expectations, and boundaries now. The good news is that most tweens aren’t ready or interested in more than a quick peck on the cheek or holding hands.

It is a bittersweet feeling to see your tweens show a romantic interest in a peer. It is perhaps a real sign that your baby is growing up before your eyes. Savor their innocence, in today’s world these days are short-lived.

What is a good age for kids to start dating?

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.