I think it’s safe to say that most people in the civilized world are appalled to read stories of elementary-aged children betrothed to be married, which is the norm in some cultures. I know people in arranged marriages, but the arrangements were not made until they reached adulthood. Childhood should be reserved for playing house, not keeping it. So, why does our “enlightened” culture push dating on children? Is it any different? Children playing adult games, is what it amounts to.
There are various thoughts on this topic, from asking a kindergartener who their boyfriend/girlfrend is to combining a blind date with a wedding. I think a little common sense would help this touchy subject.
First, the object of dating, in most cases, is to find a mate. Should a junior high student be looking for a mate? Only if she’s auditioning for a role on Teen Moms. Personally, I want my young teenage daughter’s physical science class to be about geology, not biology, if you know what I mean. She knows plenty about the differences between the sexes, but it’s a superficial knowledge, which is perfectly appropriate at this age. In that vein, what’s the purpose of a junior high dance? So the boys can stand on one side of the room making body noises while the girls stand on the other side of the room giggling?
Second, young relationships do not last. Teenagers are just learning how to relate on a different level than the sandbox. Friendships are important to this process. Evaluating potential life partners is not. As girls and boys fall in and out of deep like, their hearts are pinched and bruised and sometimes trampled on by a lot of frogs. Often, those early disappointments become a trend in a child’s life, positioning him or her to either run from commitment or grab hold of the first one who stands still long enough. Instead, teens who develop relationships more slowly and focus on learning to be friends over date-hopping will likely suffer less angst and carry less baggage into serious relationships as adults. Wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace to see the divorce rate lower?
I keep the line of communication open with my teenage daughter. When she has a party to go to, I talk to her about what things might happen and how to react in certain situations. We have a list of “red lights” which means that she calls us to come get her.
- Crude or dirty jokes
- Physical contact betwen the sexes
- The absence of all adults
- An argument between any of the other kids
This list is still short because she’s 13 and she only goes places that we have carefully considered.
Our common sense rules for approving a social invitation are:
- She never goes to a party at a house where we do not know the parents and at least a majority of the kids.
- She does not go to dances or pool parties.
- We drop her off. We pick her up. We come inside to say hi to everybody. If we’re not welcome, she doesn’t stay.
- She calls us if any of our red lights come up, and we come get her.
We’re not trying to rule with an iron fist here; we’re trying to protect our daughter and guide her through the rough waters of adolescent. This is not the time to throw her in and let her sink or swim. It is very dangerous to assume she will buck the trend of multiple boyfriends, sex before marriage, and a poorly chosen marriage partner. Our love and counsel is meant to give her the best chance possible.