How to Help Your Kids Navigate Attraction in the Tween Years
I cringe to even put the words “dating” and “middle school” together. Middle school kids are really too young to be doing anything remotely close to dating.
However, this is the time when boys and girls start getting interested in one another. As much as I don’t want to think about my sweet little boy (who is now almost as tall as I am, has a deep voice, and has big man feet) being interested in anyone in that way, I know it’s coming. So here are my suggestions for ways to keep this tumultuous time under control.
4 Ways to Guide Your Tween Through “Dating Stuff”
1 – Monitor What They are Watching on Screens
I think I am in the huge minority because I have waited until my son is actually almost 13 to allow him to watch a PG-13 movie. I know, I am such a dud of a mom. But OMG, can we talk about some of the stuff that’s in PG-13 and R-rated movies? Prime time TV shows? YouTube? No, we cannot, because this is grkids and that stuff is too darn racy for this site.
If you think your middle school kid is responsible enough to be surfing the internet unsupervised, think again. Kids can get into some highly inappropriate stuff without even trying. I don’t even want to think about what they can get into if they are trying…
Middle school brains are easily influenced. Being exposed to highly sexualized stuff can give them some very messed up ideas of what it means to be in a relationship. Do your research about movies. Monitor their internet use. Put limitations/filters on their devices. They NEED this.
2 – Have Conversations About Relationships. Lots of Them.
Open the door. And keep opening it over and over again. When it comes to talking about relationships, this is not a one time chat. You need to be your kids’ primary source of information about what it means to have a boyfriend/ girlfriend, how you treat others, what level of physical contact is acceptable, and so on.
3 – Assure Them That all of This is Normal… and Awkward and Difficult
Middle school kids can really start to feel like they are crazy or there is something wrong with them; hormones and puberty will do that to you. My son recently informed me that he was starting to have mood swings and was super freaked out about it. Kids need to be told that all of these mixed up feelings are normal.
Kids need to hear from parents that it is very normal to think about members of the opposite sex in a different way. Tell them stories about you when you were in middle school. Like I said, open the door… and keep opening it over and over again.
4 – Know Your Kids’ Friends… and More Importantly, Their Friends’ Parents
Having lots of good people in your tribe has many positive effects. Your kids need to have good influences at this age. You also need to have lots of eyes and ears on your kids. I love the fact that I could pick up the phone and call several other moms to see what they know about what’s going on with our kids and their friends. This is not about being gossipy, this is about educating and protecting our kids.
It’s okay to be the tough mom/dad here. We all know the chaos that can come with dating and attraction, and giving our kids a firm foundation at this age will help them make good choices when they finally are old enough to date.