My 12 Year Old Daughter Wants to Date

Dear Gabby,

My 12 year old daughter wants to "date" as in another 12 year old boy asked her out.  She tells me this just means talk, text and "hang out". I'm freaking out! Dating at 12? Is it me, or is this just insanely young? I want to say no, but other parents tell me she'll do it anyway.

What's a mom to do? 

Signed,

Overwhelmed with Tween


Dear Overwhelmed with Tween,

When I think back to being 12-years-old, I clearly remember "going out" (as it was called where I lived) or "going with" boys my age. I remember my friends doing the same. 

Today, with technology being what it is, kids are far more accessible to one another than they were when we were young. It's not just phone calls on the house phone, writing letters or seeing one another in the hallways at school, but it can be sending discreet messages and photos through mobile devices or postings on social media - coupled with prepubescent or pubescent curiosity. That's a scary thought.

As a mother of sons, I was concerned that my answer might differ from my peers who have daughters. So I put out a call to my Facebook friends for input. 

The overwhelming response (from parents of both boys and girls) was that 12 is too young for a "dating" relationship. At this age, some said, the focus should really be on friends, school, and extracurricular activities. 

That's all well and good, but I would argue that puberty is a time of discovery - not just of oneself but of relationships and the world around them - and this is part of that process. 

Not everyone may agree with me, but I think there are some things you just may need to let your daughter do -- you just need to make sure you're all on the same page.

Let me give you an example... My youngest son (age 10 - yes, 10) has a special relationship with a girl his age. They have had a strong bond since first grade. Her mother and I have become dear friends as a result and foster (but don't push) the relationship. We have both talked to them extensively that it is not appropriate at this age to be in a relationship, but we do allow them to be a big part of each others' lives. And most importantly, we teach them how to behave around each other and support and respect one another whether they are still just friends or something more in the future. 

When they want to do something together, we get both families out of the house and go out for ice cream. Do they want to buy each other gifts? Sure - we let them (within reason). Do they want to FaceTime? We let them do that too.

All that said, I don't necessarily know that there is a right or wrong answer.

But whatever you do end up doing, you need to set some ground rules like:

1- Discuss appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior and how to handle both.

2- Assuming your daughter has a mobile device, you have full access to her text and social media communications as well as any photos at any point - no arguments.

3- Any "dates" should be part of group outings with people you, the parent, know and trust OR with you or the other parent present.

4- If she does go out on a "date," the phone must be on at all times and any texts or calls must be answered immediately.

5- You can also require that your child's mobile device is set up with a tracker so you know where she is at all times.

6- Get to know the parents of the boy (if you don't already). 

 

Truthfully though, these are things that you may even consider doing regardless of whether your child is going out with friends or a one-on-one date!

And yes, some kids (maybe even most) will try to go behind your back and do things regardless of whether or not they have your permission. But the more you keep the lines of communication open and have rules that are firm but flexible enough to be reasonable, you have a better chance of your daughter or son making sound relationship decisions moving forward.

Sincerely,

Beth #kickingassandsurvivingmotherhood