Kids these days seem to be growing up so fast! They wish to have romantic relationships at a very tender age.
It makes us wonder, can an 11-year-old date? What should I allow on a pre-teen date? How do I know my kid will not land in trouble?
Read on to get all the answers that have been bothering you since your kid expressed an interest in dating.
Life at 11 – decoding the tween psychology
The tween years are a crucial phase in the development of a child. It is a time of immense physiological and mental transitions.
At this stage, feelings are more intense. The part of the brain responsible for decision-making is not yet completely developed. This makes your kid impulsive, and often irritable.
So, if your child is annoyed all the time, and tends to throw more tantrums than usual, don’t freak out! They are acting their age!
Emotional Development at 11
Puberty brings about immense hormonal changes. Your child is already struggling to cope with new experiences and emotions at this age. The added social and peer pressure makes things all the more overwhelming.
Your child is taking baby steps toward adolescence. They may start losing interest in spending time at home. Kids these days tend to focus more on building and nurturing friendships.
Children experience immense pressure to present themselves in a socially-approved manner. Your kid may start becoming more conscious about their body image. They may be changing their eating behaviors to look a certain way.
Effects of social media
We live in a digital era. Today, cutting off your child from social media may be almost impossible.
Kids these days enjoy increased exposure to television, mobile phones, and social media platforms. This often leads a pre-teen to form unrealistic views of the lifestyle followed by others. They are more exposed to bullying and ridicule than we ever were during our childhood years.
The tender, impulsive tween mind fails to distinguish between right and wrong. Kids often end up posting hurtful content on social media about their peers.
Can An 11-Year-Old Date? How young is too young?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that girls start dating as early as 12-and-a-half years. Boys tend to wait no more than a year longer(1).
It is important to realize that every kid is unique. Each child reaches emotional and physiological milestones at different ages.
Try and understand your child’s psychology before you ground them for talking about dating! Your kid perceives dating as a normal and a pretty desirable part of their life. As a responsible parent, you should know better than to blow off those emotions.
Going on one-on-one dates at the tender age of 11 years may be a bit too much. But, you can encourage your child to socialize as a part of a large group.
How to set boundaries?
At 11 your child is too young to make rational decisions. So, you must set some ground rules in place as you allow your kid to explore their emotions in a safe and supervised environment.
Setting ground rules
There is no one-size-fits-all thumb rule when it comes to tween dating. But, the following basic rules will give you a headstart as you attempt to navigate the troubled waters of pre-adolescent dating.
1.Group dates only: It is generally okay to let your child spend time with their partner as a part of a larger social group. They can do so at birthday parties, family dinners, mall visits, or school events. But make sure that a responsible adult accompanies the group at all times.
2.No PDA: Immense physiological changes and desires come with raging hormones during this age. But, your child is far too young to be engaging in physical intimacy at this age. So, as a parent, you must make your child understand the importance of abstaining from physical closeness. Try not to rebuke them, but explain the rules in a calm and friendly manner.
3.Insist on meeting your child’s date: It is a healthy practice to meet the person that your kid wants to go on a date with. Also, try and talk with the adult chaperone who intends to go with them. That way, you can create an environment of mutual trust and respect.
Communication is the key
Dating is a very sensitive topic for a young child. How you deal with this might lay the foundation of your relationship with your kid in the coming years.
As adults, we often make the mistake of belittling the emotions of our kids as juvenile and silly.
Communication is a two-way lane. Your child must understand that you perceive their feelings as natural, valid, and legitimate. Only then will they try to take in your views with an equal amount of respect and seriousness.
Make your child aware of the red flags to look out for. Help them see the kind of treatment that they should expect from their dating partners. Try and empower your child by giving them a sense of responsibility.
Do not shy away from talking about issues such as sex, and consent. It is better that your child learns about such sensitive topics from you, rather than from their peers, or worse, from social media.
As a parent should I be concerned?
As a parent, it is natural to be concerned about the idea of your kid going on a date. After all, it would seem like yesterday that you brought home that tiny bundle of joy! How did they grow up so fast?
While your concerns are valid, it is a good option to get a grip on those feelings and deal with the situation rationally and calmly.
Explain the things that could go wrong on a date, and guide your kid on how to get out of a less-than-ideal situation. Make sure you know the venue of the group date and have the contact information of more than one person in the group. Encourage your child to call you immediately if they need any sort of help.
How to handle heartbreaks?
During the pre-teen years, all emotions are heightened. Hence heartache hits the young mind pretty hard.
As a parent, you must acknowledge those painful feelings that your child is experiencing. Do not make the mistake of blowing them off as an overreaction. Listen to their woes and try to put yourselves in their shoes.
Kids often resort to social media to express their emotions during such troubled times. Due to a lack of judgment, they sometimes end up posting hurtful, inappropriate, and personal details on public forums. This exposes them to cyber bullies, which leaves a lasting impact on their immature minds.
Try and educate your child on acceptable social media practices during this phase. Encourage them to channel their energy into productive activities like sports.
The thought of your little bird exploring the dating world can seem overwhelming at first. But it is important to remember that this was bound to happen at some point.
Be glad that your child confides in you. Create a friendly environment where your kids can approach you with relationship issues without fear or shame.
Take this opportunity to build on the parent-child bond that lasts a lifetime!