Dating Amongst Tweens?

Earlier this fall, a very popular post was "Choosing a Good Husband", written after some college aged girls asked for relationship advice in choosing a man to marry. The girls who asked are at the stage of life where they are thinking about marriage, and want a marriage that will last.

So now, what about all the younger teens? Girls and guys who want to date, but aren't exactly ready for marriage? Then there's the topic of the younger tween years, where some form of dating is already occurring among many in early middle school.

What's a parent to do?

We as parents get confronted with this decision earlier than most of us would care to deal with it.  I remember being asked when my daughter was in 6th grade if she and a friend could go to the movies with 2 boys .Our reaction was, "How could we even be having this discussion in 6th grade?" Some allow this, some don't. For us it was a no, which I'll explain below.

Dating in middle school and dating in later years seem to usually mean two different things. In middle school it could mean a boy and girl like each other from afar, pass notes through friends, just text, ignore each other awkwardly in the hallway, or they may actually be going out to the movies together.

Even the college girls I spoke to this summer ended up confused with all the terms...talking, dating, official, Facebook they tried to explain to me the current dating "process". The confusing part to me is the new "talking" phase, before dating. When it turns from talking to dating I'm still not sure. I really want to understand this though. (Would love clarifying comments if you feel like leaving them on this post!)

This I know, there can't be only one "right way to date", so I'm just going to offer some principles to consider, along with our personal thoughts since we've been asked. Upcoming blogs will offer the thoughts of many I've also been asking.  It's all food for thought, as you decide what's best for your family.

Today let's focus on the tween middle school years.

Boyfriends and dating feel so important to some middle schoolers. Some feel defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend. The first step is finding out what "dating" and "boyfriend" even mean at your kids school. Like I already said, it may mean actually going to the skating rink or movies with a boy, then again it may mean you stop talking and feel awkward around each other in the hallways (this is my preferred definition in 6th grade!)

One value my husband and I share is that of waiting for things. As you look at the big picture, where do certain issues fit in age appropriately. What are the pros and cons of dating, what are the pros and cons of waiting?

Let's draw a line that represents 6th grade to the end of college. I'm starting in 6th grade because that's where I've seen forms of dating start. In 6th grade tweens are about 11 or 12 years old.


Instead of just saying a big fat NO to your tween, discuss the subject with them (even if it's still followed by a no.) Consider this- Sometimes girls actually feel like this particular 6th grade boy will last forever, so for the sake of the argument, let's assume it will last. So if you start "dating" in some form in 6th grade, even if you got married VERY early, let's say after high school, that's 7 years of dating. If you got married after college that's 11 years or so of dating. The average age to get married is age 25, so make that 14 years of dating possibly. The line above is just a visual of all the years you have to get through, for both you and your tween, if boyfriends start in 6th grade.

You will either date for a very long time, or you will break up. When you start to date, those are your options- marrying or breaking up. Dating one person exclusively long term is a very mature decision, and one that will cause your tween to perhaps miss out on many fun friend activities because of being so busy with a boyfriend. Also, the harder truth for a tween to hear is this- Unless you are at a marrying age, the truth about your dating relationship is that it's probably not going to last.  And breakups involve emotions, heartbreak, etc. etc.

Whenever boyfriends or dating do start, look at it in perspective of that line above. Know that they will be living at home until at least 12th grade, and things only escalate. It's easier to delay freedoms and give them when time, than to allow freedoms then have to go backwards, especially when there are many years left to get through.

Consider it this way, what is more helpful to your daughter, to practice giving her heart away, to a probable immature person who will most likely hurt it? Or to practice protecting and caring for her heart, knowing the value of relationships. I know that in middle school some kids have even joked that they were married and divorced. Constant early dating is a form of practicing the beginning and endings of relationships. After so much of that, the heart can get beat up.

Oh, why so serious? Is it really harmful to have a boy that you like at 12? I know there's no way you can "stop" your tween from liking a boy. You can't control their emotions. But as my husband puts it, you can like them, but it doesn't mean you need to do anything about it (spoken like a good dad). In other words, yes you're going to have feelings for people, but talking through and understanding this whole outlook with your kids will help them make better decisions, or at least understand the reasonings behind your decisions. Delaying follow through as long as you can just helps you out a bit.

Our girls hearts are valuable and by design they love to give their heart away to love. Knowing how and when to do that is worth talking about. As they grow up, protecting the value of their heart and who they give it to is an important part of life. For believers, giving their heart and love to Jesus will bring much more fulfillment to their lives than a boy will, especially in middle school. We as parents can help them learn to protect their emotions, and to know that watching over their heart is a meaningful thing. At some point, giving their heart away to another person will be the right thing to do! It helps for them to know that. It's all about timing.

Are boys evil? No. Definitely not. Are dates evil? No. Would my kids have survived unscathed if we had let them go to that 6th grade double date movie? Maybe. Probably. But our decision was based on the principle of this question- why even start the dating process then? For us, it's too young and the tweens have not even grown up enough to handle each other's hearts responsibly. The earlier you awaken and encourage the desire for a boyfriend, the longer and harder the road until marriage. On the other hand, if they grow up in themselves and in friendships, they will probably be happier and have a little less heartbreak.

Now I'm not speaking of boy friendships. I know that sometimes for girls, boys can make better friends than girls because of the middle school girl meanness. Boys are less dramatic. Then again, I have not found a man hardly who agrees with that...he says the boy always secretly likes the girl. The great debate, I don't think we can solve here. This blog is addressing boyfriends. In early tween teen years.

Some parents have a certain number that is the dating age. 15, 16, 18. That works well for many. We don't have a certain number, for us it depends on the daughter, the boy and the situation.

I'm also aware there are parents who are okay with real dating in middle school, as long as the daughter is open about it with the parents and follow certain guidelines. Feel free to leave a comment on this post about what your guidelines and reasonings are, in case someone reading this leans more toward that persuasion than mine.

Remember when I said some middle schoolers are defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend? Why is that. What is the motive? Middle school can be such an awkward uncertain time, and fitting in and social status is fairly important to most. Some may want a boyfriend just because they feel incomplete or out of the social scene if they don't have one. I would ask a girl, "Do you really enjoy him, or do you like who you are because of having a boyfriend?"  If it stands that no, she really likes him, good.

Even if a girl is very mature and has a really quality guy she likes, ask these questions: would you rather take the chance dating, or would you rather keep him for a really good friend? Friends are valuable and generally last longer. It's easy for a really good strong friendship to later become a dating relationship. It's much harder to recover a lost friendship after dating too soon and hurting the relationship.

If you really like him, keep him as a friend for awhile. Take things slowly. Be friends. Be whole yourself. Think about things, don't just take things "the way they are" without thinking for yourself.
I want to teach my girls that other people's hearts are valuable and fragile and not to be played with. I don't want boys using my girls to just get what they want. I don't want my girls doing that to boys.

So asking your tween the honest question of WHY they want a boyfriend is interesting. Listen to what they say. Have them answer the actual pros and cons of having a boyfriend in middle school. If your child understands the WHY of something, they are more likely to listen to you, or at least understand your decisions.

More fights happen between girls about boys than anything else. So much drama is wrapped up in dating life, I think because kids are still very immature in early teen years. Gee whiz, adults can barely handle relationships, why do we think 12 year olds can?

Coming soon...thoughts on high school...and some dads opinions.


Anastasia's Mom- Her Perspective

Yesterday Anastasia told a story of growing up in many ways during her college experience, which she is now in her final year of. If you missed it, make sure and click on those pink words there and read her touching story.

The tragedy of her roommate passing away was something she never dreamed would happen.

If you missed that story, please go back and take a moment to soak in the words of Anastasia.

Today, Anastasia's mom Lucy shares her side of the story, receiving that phonecall, the shock and her response. Here's Lucy:

"From the time our children are born, our goal is to raise them to become independent, self-reliant adults. Ironically, when the day comes, we tend to pull back the reins.

I had so many different emotions as we moved Ana into her dorm. I felt excitement, anticipation, fear, pride. I was so proud of Ana for becoming the young woman that I had raised. She was ready for this moment, this life experience. I just knew she would do well. She would make lifelong friends and memories.

I wanted her to experience campus life. Even though we were only 45 minutes away, I wanted her to stay on campus during the weekends so that she could become a part of that community. It was hard, but I felt that it was best. I tried to give her space, but what I really wanted was to be a college chic all over again! I knew that wouldn’t go over well.

We spoke often and sent texts keeping each other informed of life’s daily happenings. Occasionally, she would come home and spend the night. I loved those times.

I will never forget the day Ana called me and I could barely understand her words through her sobbing.”What?”

She said it again, “Ariane died….”

Did I hear that right? “What?! When? What happened?”

My thoughts were reeling…this can’t be…we just saw her a couple of days ago when we dropped Ana off after a nice meal. We walked her to her room and Ariane was sitting on her bed studying. She stopped long enough to acknowledge us with her beautiful smile. She was her usual friendly self. She seemed fine.

I asked her again. I asked all the same questions over again thinking the answers would be different. It didn’t make sense.

“What can I do? Do you need me to come? How can I help?” I felt so helpless. I thought she needed me. I could have been there for her, but she was surrounded with people who loved her and who loved Arianne. They would support her.

I was glad that she came home that night to spend the night with us. I just hugged her and didn’t want to let go.

As hard as this year has been for Ana, I think it’s made her a stronger, wiser person. She sees life in a “real” way and knows life is short. I can’t protect her from that as hard as it is to see her hurting. She has become that loving, mature, God-strong woman independent , self-reliant, Christian young woman that I always hoped and prayed she’d become."

Anastasia shared the personal struggle she went through in dealing with the loss of her very close friend unexpectedly. Thank goodness she was surrounded by loving friends and family. I never met Ariane but know that she was an amazing and inspiring person, well loved by those around her. I pray for her family in what must still be so hard.

I thank Lucy and Anastasia both for sharing their story. Ana described how through hard times, good can still come. How people live without faith in God is beyond me. I know that there's nothing else that can hold us together during times as hard as the ones that Anastasia described. But He is there even then. And I know He is with Ariane's family.

We have the hope that even our eternal life is secure. Ariane just changed where she lives.


Death & Rebirth in College- Anastasia's Story

I have just completed what feels like the busiest month of my life. Family, school, two speaking engagements, a week long fabulous getaway and writing a holiday book! In all that fun, I realize that I miss my natural flow of blogging. I'm back...

Months ago, if you remember, my friend Lucy shared her parenting journey with us, involving one daughter with a disability and how God has led them through difficult paths into beautiful places. (Lucy and I shared a fun missions trip together for a summer back in the 80's. Good times...lots of laughter.)

Today, another daughter of hers, Anastasia, is sharing her experience of college life.

I remember when Lucy was posting her sadness on Facebook as she learned to deal with her oldest going to school. I noticed because she was one year ahead of me, so guess whose turn was next? She mentally prepared me for what would be coming for me a year later.

I also remember not too long ago seeing Lucy post about a horrible tragedy, as Anastasia's roommate and dear friend died unexpectedly during school. So sad and hard to deal with. Anastasia has graciously agreed to tell her story of college life. I think my favorite thing is hearing from young people, how they view the world and their experiences. So grab a cup of coffee and listen as Anastasia bravely tells a touching story.

"I am now a Senior at a University in North Carolina. I am graduating a year early but I’ve learned so much even in the two and a half years that I’ve been here. I was so anxious to get out of the house and become my own individual the summer before I left home. I was sure that I had everything under control and wouldn’t need my parents/my family for anything once I was 'on my own’. That was not the case at all. I cried like a baby the first two weeks at GWU. I missed my family so much. I wanted to call my mom and fill her in on every little thing that happened. GWU is only about a 45 min. drive from home but over time I would learn that home is however close or however far you make it. It took me about a month to really get settled in and adjusted to GWU.

In high school, there are specific cliques that one must fit into. It’s just too bad if you can’t seem to find your niche. Thus, creating the feeling to need to be fake. Unfortunately enough, in high school I did myself an injustice and pretended to be someone I was not, simply to ‘fit in’. College was a totally different world and I planned on reinventing myself. I was successful in a matter of speaking. I realized that being myself was OK. I made friends who enjoyed me for me! This revolution transformed me. My self-esteem skyrocketed. I was willing to try new things. My relationship with God became so much stronger, and for the first time I was happy and I enjoying my life.

My world came to an abrupt halt the second semester of my second year at GWU. Ariane Patterson, my roommate, my friend, my sister in Christ, and my inspiration passed away.

Her death was completely unexpected. I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into an unforgiving black hole. I couldn’t find any reason to get out of bed. My life had lost purpose. This beautiful girl had so many plans for her life. Just a few days before her passing, we had stayed up talking about our futures. She said she knew that God had a wonderful man waiting for her among other things. How could a girl so sure of what God had planned for her, pass away so suddenly? And why, if we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, is there any reason in trying, in living? These are just a few of the questions I asked myself every minute of every hour of every day.

There is a beautiful ending to this story, I promise. My friends, my teachers, my family and people I didn’t even know wrapped their love around me. They pulled me from my sorrow and lifted me up. Every day got a little easier. Of course, there were days that all I could manage to do was cry myself dry but even on those days, I wasn’t left alone. My friends were there with boxes of Kleenex and bear hugs.

Everyday, we are tested. We run into obstacles, big and small, but obstacles nonetheless. It is what we choose to do with them, that makes us who we are. Sometimes it is okay to lean on others. While I wish that Ariane was still here today, her death taught me so much about life. However, all the changes that have taken place in my life, over the past few years, are from my college experience as a whole. College, for me, has been somewhat of a death and rebirth. The immature, naive, and selfish little girl passed away making room for who I am today; a loving, mature, and God strong woman."


Old School Skills- Passing Notes in Class with Style

Today I want to share a special skill with you. A very meaningful one. (HA)

Remember folding notes like this and passing them in school way back in the day??

I was reminded of this recently by a friend, and was so excited to relearn the skill.

I even made a step by step how to guide to re-teach you too!

Sad that kids today will have not have many tangible memories such as these...just lost texts on a phone they don't have anymore. Sad face.

Think we can bring this back?? Click right here on this sentence for your how to guide!


College Girls Share What Draws Them...

I love this video!!

Almost all of these girls I've met personally and know how wonderful they are. One is my lovely daughter.

I love that Jaime Bofferding took the time to make this video. (Props to you!)  I asked permission to blog this and they happily agreed.

Take a moment to be inspired by hearing what draws these girls into a personal relationship with Jesus.

In a day where many parents are nervous about raising girls, I love to share examples of wonderful, quality, fabulous girls, (not perfect) but still fabulous girls.

They are our very exciting future. I think we'll be okay.