Are They Old Enough? An interest in being more than friends is one of many signs your tween is entering adolescence. A lack of clear terms with these young relationships is part of the problem.
Is it spending time together at the mall or movies? This is also an opportunity for you to talk about your own expectations for what you believe is and is not appropriate in middle school. There is no hard rule for when tweens should be allowed to date.
Keep in mind that even if you forbid young relationships and dating, your tween may still spend lots of time with a special someone at school. You should also be talking about the appropriate age or circumstance for different levels of physical contact. This is not for the faint of heart, but you can do it. For many tweens, dating in middle school simply means texting or Snapchatting excessively. Remember, middle schoolers often feel isolated and abnormal by nature.
They fret about being likeable and accepted. To be dating whatever that means can be the ultimate confidence booster. It can also be a nice way to make a personal connection, learn how respectful relationships are built, and develop personal insight.
Plus, remember the thrill of your first crush? Do keep an eye out for serial relationships, though. A study from the University of Georgia found that middle schoolers who were in high-frequency or back-to-back relationships tended to be prone to higher-risk behaviors, like drinking or doing drugs, later in adolescence.
I would caution against group dating, too. It may seem like a safety net to have more tweens around, but the group mentality can quickly push boundaries. Two awkward, gawky tweens forced to think of conversation is much better than a group of tweens daring the couple to go into a closet for seven minutes. You get the point. If dating in middle school terrifies you, take stock of your concerns.
Whenever your child wants something, he or she is more open to listening to you. Use that to your advantage. This is a good opportunity to share your values , perspectives, and hopes. If you react reasonably, with a willingness to learn and be flexible, your child will trust your judgment and continue to seek it as the issues around dating become increasingly complex. Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at MichelleintheMiddle.