Many parents and educators make the mistake of thinking education on dating starts when a child turns 13 years of age. The reality is many males and females are engaging in sexual conversations and acts during their tween years (some even younger). What’s a tween? Typically people consider children 11 and 12 years old to be tweens. They are in middle school, but not teenagers yet.
The tweens say they are dating. When I am speaking in middle schools, students constantly share with me how they are dating and what "dating" means to them. What they call "dating" is what most parents refer to as "hooking up" — getting together to hang out and be intimate in some form (from kissing to more advanced sexual activity). Even going to the movies is frequently motivated by going "in the dark to make out." Students are not shy about discussing this viewpoint.
What is the problem? The tweens view dating as "hook-ups"; intimate moments; and/or sexual conquests. They consider sexual activity and dating to be the same thing. Some tweens believe oral sex and sexual intercourse are a must have for a relationship. Who can blame them? They have been exposed to such images over and over again through media, entertainment, and advertising.
Worst of all, many parents and educators do nothing to reverse that belief process. The good news is I know our readers do care. You are working hard to make a positive impact. Here my challenge for you this week:
Teach at least 3 tweens what dating really is. It’s not a license for sex. The definition of dating is:- an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially: a social engagement between two persons. The purpose of a date is to get to know someone better, what their interests are, and what you have in common. Ask tweens if they know what dating really means.
Be open minded and sincere in your question. If the tween sees you "trying to make point," they are likely to shut down or tell you what you want to hear. Instead, open the conversation with, "Can you help me out, please? It has been so long since I dated, what does that mean nowadays? What does it mean when your friends say they are dating or what does dating mean to you?" You may be surprised by the answer. If you are, make a "date" with your child, get to know them a little better and help them understand the purpose of a date.