I (Kendra) can still remember a conversation I had with our youngest son Jonathan when he was in Junior High.  He came home from school and as he sat at the island having an afternoon snack he announced he was “going out” with Meredith.

Jonathan seemed a little surprised when I asked him a very simple question.  “Where are you going?” After all, it seemed that as his mother I needed to have an idea of where “out” was.

You already know the answer and I must admit I had a pretty good idea before I asked. “Going out” was the tween equivalent to today’s Dating.

Nearly half of 11- to 14-year olds say they have been in a “dating relationship,” according to a survey conducted a few years ago. That number is on the increase today.

Here are some things Mom and Dad need to know about the tween Dating phenomenon.

  • Tween Dating does not look like what parents might label “traditional” dating.  Very little of the dating experience is actually face-to-face. Instead these kids are connecting via texting and social networks.
  • The tween Dating experience is typically very short-lived.  A month is considered a long relationship.  In spite of the lack of longevity, the “partners” are expected to be monogamous and the relationships are not typically something parents are aware of.
  • These relationships are largely ignited and fostered through social media. They message, text, and occasionally see one another in the hall at school.  If there is any other contact, it is usually in group settings.
  • Parents need to realize it’s a mistake to think dating at this age is “cute.” Today’s early maturation and societal pressures are causing kids to grow up very fast. Encouraging dating at an early age pushes them even more.
  • Tweens have had very little experience in the art of setting personal boundaries. Too often these young kids are patterning their behavior after things they see on TV and in the movies rather than on mature, loving models.
  • The Take Away? Parents, it’s your responsibility to open the lines of communication with your tween and to keep them open.  Talk with your kids about dating, necessary boundaries, and healthy relationships. The earlier these conversations begin, the more comfortable both parent and child will be.

Check out John and Kendra’s in-depth interview with Ted and PK on Faith Radio Mornings below!

John and Kendra Smiley – Tween Dating

For more from the Smiley’s about the risks of early dating.