So your tween wants to date, huh?

So your tween wants to date, huh?

Dating has different meanings for different ages of teenagers. For tweens, it means learning to understand the rules of relationships, curiosity and dealing with peers. While this can be a trying time for parents, especially if the topic of dating comes up unexpectedly, it is a normal aspect of today’s teen social development.

No, that does not mean you should allow your tween to go out on car dates, it simply means it is time to talk to them. Guide them with your advice, your unconditional love and, of course, some discipline. I will caution you to keep a firm rein on your worries. It may be the first time your tween will have real life questions for you and you’ll want to be able to answer them without thinking the worst. A lot trust can be built up or broken down around the dating issue and you’ll want to strive to put your best parenting foot forward.

Talk to your preteen. Talk about dating, sex and everything else that goes along with having a relationship. Use what they see in the media for talking points. Remember that your tween is starting from square one; they need to understand their crushes are people, not toys. People deserve to be treated kindly with respect. Establish these ideas early and they will continue to be there are your tween gets older.

Remember your opinion matters. Tweens still want their parents help, but they want independence too. And they can get a little confused as to what they want more at any given time. So, while your opinion has some chance of being heard, give it. Just don’t use your tween’s real life for any of your examples.

Keep your relationship with your tween open. The stronger you keep the family bonds while allowing more trust and independence the more your tween will share with you. It is very easy for a parent of a tween to not realize that their child is beginning a journey into adulthood. Successful parents hope this journey will end with a happy well-adjusted young adult who is ready to add his or her contribution to the world.

Set limits and follow through with them.
Use a parenting contract to help both you and your teen keep your communication and rules clear – avoiding mixed messages. Allow your tween to go out with groups of friends and discourage any single-type dating behavior.

This is a beginning, one that will follow your child throughout their lives. Add concerns into the parent/teen dating contract that may not be an issue now, but could be in the future. For instance, your 11-year-old will agree that they will talk to you if anyone is pressuring them to have sex and thereby will continue to agree with that statement as you revisit the issue as they get older. But your 17-year-old teen may have a problem with the statement if it’s a new add-on to the contract at their age.

Be an active parent. Be one who is part of the carpool when your preteen and friends want to go to the movies. While you don’t want to hover or be one of your tween’s friends, you can be the parent that they can count on to provide transportation to and from events where groups of tweens get together, like school sport events, movies, etc.

Talk with other parents
of the boys and girls that are hanging out with your tween. Become friendly with them, know their names. You don’t have to be best friends, simply build enough of a relationship to be comfortable talking to them. Let them know that you are an approachable parent, should the need ever arise.

Monitor online activity. Tweens these days are very savvy when it comes to FaceTime, Facebook, SnapChat, etc. Sometimes dating is just hanging out online for them. So, keep an eye out for this type of online activity and help your tween keep their behavior appropriate.

Communication Tip: As the parent who plays chauffer, you will be privy to all sorts of information tweens talk about in the car. If you hear something you are uncomfortable with, keep your calm and don’t jump on your child about it when you get home. Decide in the next few days whether what was talked about is important enough for you to test the trust your tween has in you before bringing it up.

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