How old were you when you began dating? Sixteen? Fourteen? Today, children are beginning to date at very young ages, but there are risks involved. If your tween wants to date, here's what you should know about kids, dating, and tween attitudes about relationships.
What Tweens Think About Dating
What do tweens think about kids, dating and growing up? Gone are the days when tween dating meant holding hands, giggling, and splitting ice cream sundaes at the local soda shop. Today's tweens have been exposed to an unprecedented number of images of sexual activity through television, the movies, video games, and the Internet.
According to a recent study, conducted by Liz Claiborne and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, tween attitudes about dating are not as innocent as you might think. In fact, they're shocking. The study revealed that nearly one in three tweens say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Sadly, more than one in four of those tweens say that having sex is a part of tween dating.
What Parents Can Do About Kids, Dating and Setting Limits
It's no wonder parents of tweens worry about the dangers of tween dating. But there are ways to help your child understand dating limits, and appropriate behavior.
- Talk. One discussion won't be enough to help your tween understand your family values. Seize any moment your tween presents to you, answering questions he or she might have. Also, make your viewpoints clear on the subject of kids, dating and what's appropriate behavior. For example, you could say, "It's fine to hold hands, but you're too young to kiss." Also, emphasize your family rules, such as whether or not your child's friend is allowed in her bedroom or alone in the house with her. Be specific, otherwise tweens will make up their own rules as they go.
- Be Aware. Stay connected to other parents, so you know what's going on. If you hear about inappropriate activity, discuss the issue with your tween and ask what he or she thinks about that behavior.
- Set Limits. If you decide to allow your tween to date, be specific about your conditions. Will the tweens always have adult supervision? Where are the tweens permitted to go?
- Don't Assume. Many of today's tweens and teens engage in group dating, but group dating isn't always a safety net. Ultimately, you are still responsible for supervising your child.
- Go on a Date. Take your tween on a first date to model good behavior. Explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.