I’m using the words “child” and “dating” in the same sentence and it’s freaking some of you out.
In all seriousness, though, it might be fair to put dating—or “hanging out” as many middle schoolers say—near the top of the list.
If dating in middle school terrifies you, take stock of your concerns.
Remember, middle schoolers often feel isolated and abnormal by nature. To be dating (whatever that means) can be the ultimate confidence booster. Do keep an eye out for serial relationships, though.
It can also be a nice way to make a personal connection, learn how respectful relationships are built, and develop personal insight. A 2013 study from the University of Georgia found that middle schoolers who were in high-frequency or back-to-back relationships tended to be prone to higher-risk behaviors, like drinking or doing drugs, later in adolescence. It may seem like a safety net to have more tweens around, but the group mentality can quickly push boundaries.
It’s a very concrete litmus test for daily, minute-by-minute decisions. What will each and every decision say about who I am to the people around me?
Do I want to be the kind of person who likes Chance the Rapper or Bruno Mars? Related: The Neurological Reason Why Your Middle Schooler Acts Like a Toddler Not until early adulthood do we stop questioning what each decision says about our identity and that’s because by early adulthood we’re ready to focus on someone other than ourselves: a partner.And remember to have this conversation in a way that respects their need to feel grown up with your need to protect them.Keeping a neutral expression while you talk will help tremendously. While you have a web of questions in your head about young dating, most of the decisions I see middle schoolers make relate back to just one question: This isn’t a philosophical question.Is it spending time together at the mall or movies?Or maybe it’s just extra texting and a change in her social media status. This is also an opportunity for you to talk about your own expectations for what you believe is appropriate in middle school.What if he or she isn’t mature enough to know how to say no?