Thank you to everyone who commented to my last two posts. You all brought some good stuff to the table. Not only do I appreciate hearing the different views, but I think it benefits all who read them. Here are the rest of my thoughts on this subject.
Yesterday I wrote about the reality of middle school and the kids who attend. I believe most of the girlfriend-boyfriend relationships are in name only. And even though they're in name only, they can turn out bad.
Many times a boy and girl who were friends and then decided to become a boyfriend-girlfriend find themselves not talking to each other at all because they don't know how to handle the expectations of having this status. They "break-up" quickly and unfortunately, their friendship can't withstand the fallout.
Even though I believe most of these relationships (and I obviously use that term loosely), there are those kids who take it to a deeper level. Since they are so young, most of it is experimenting and doing what they think is expected of them, since being in a "relationship." But as all adults know, that usually leads to trouble. The facts is; there are sexually active kids in middle school.
That is why it's important to be in touch with what's happening in your child's environment and lay a foundation of communication, discipline, respect and trust - and all this has to happen before your child goes into his/her middle school years.
I'm a firm believer in communication - mutual communication. I needed to know what my kids were thinking and feeling and experiencing in order to know why they reacted in a certain way or how to help them with something. Likewise, I wanted my kids to know why we made certain decisions, why we had to say no, and what we expected from them. If you have this foundation already in place when your child gets to middle school, it helps to navigate through this turbulent and bewildering period.
If you have guidelines for dating, you should communicate that as early as possible. I have a friend whose kids knew, from the time they learned to talk, that they were not allowed to date one on one until they were 16. There was never any need to try to negotiate. That's just the way it was. It worked because that rule wasn't all of a sudden sprung on them when they were at the age when they were watching their peers have boyfriends and girlfriends. They also communicated to their children why they had this policy and why it was important to them. They didn't just say, "because I'm the parent and I say so." They did it will love and logic.
My son had a girlfriend when he was 13, but we did a lot of talking about what it meant to be a boyfriend and was was expected from him. We met her family and got to know them very well (luckily, we liked them a lot). He and his girlfriend only did things in a group setting, most of the time with other friends and then other times with one of the families. I truly believe he learned personal, relational, and social skills during this time. They were allowed some freedom within a closely watched and regulated environment.
Did I know everything that went on - no. Did he tell me everything that was on his mind - I'm sure not. But we were able to talk about a lot that I think helped him understand relationships. I honestly don't think we would have had some of those same conversations if he were in high school. By that time, kids think they know it all and don't need their parents.
What I didn't address here, but what I feel is true, is that there is a difference between boys and girls when it comes to this subject. How much self esteem a girl has, and how empowered she feels, will play a role when it comes to wanting the acceptance and fitting in, thus having a boy friend. I could write another post on this subject, so I'm not going to go on. This post is long enough =)
I wouldn't presume to tell anyone how to parent their children. And I sincerely hope no one feels that way by what I've written. I recognize that we all parent differently and no one knows our kids better than we do, as parents. These are just my thoughts, personal opinions, and experience. Thank you again for your input. I enjoy reading each and every comment.