Middle School Romance: The Pros and Cons


middle school romance

My daughter often gives me an update on the social goings-on in her class. Last week she said, “Did I tell you that Allie broke up with Carter Smith?” She went on to say, “They’d been dating for like six months, but she said she didn’t want a boyfriend right now. So she’s not going to date anyone else for a while.”

The kicker? Everyone in this story is eleven. Eleven, people. Eleven and trying to figure out the dynamics of a months-long exclusive relationship and using words like “dating” to describe them. It leaves me speechless, to be honest.

The middle school years are a time of major transition for kids as nature forces them along the path toward adulthood. It’s not like we, as parents, can prevent their sudden interest in the opposite sex because, well–hormones and whatnot. But allowing that new interest to move quickly into a serious romantic attachment with a peer has its pitfalls. At this tender age, your child barely knows who she is and lacks the judgment to make good decisions about such a relationship. Before you allow or celebrate your middle-schooler’s boyfriend or girlfriend, consider these pros and cons of middle school romance.

PRO:

Finding out that a boy likes you makes you feel pretty and popular boosting your preteen self-esteem.

CON:

Finding out 11.4 days later that he is “so over you” destroys your self-esteem, affirming all of your middle-schooler suspicions that you are unattractive, awkward, and that no one really likes you.

For every upside to middle school romance, there’s a pretty harsh downside. {Tweet This} Rejection is hard at any age but especially so at a stage when you feel physically, emotionally, and socially vulnerable.

PRO:

Spending time with a boyfriend or girlfriend is fun.

CON:

Spending lots of time with a boyfriend or girlfriend takes you away from your friends.

At this age, kids need good friends. But middle schoolers who have girlfriends or boyfriends miss out on great platonic relationships. Sometimes they break up with a romantic attachment to find that while they were all dreamy-eyed and in love, their other friendships cooled for lack of attention, leaving them “lost” in the social landscape.

PRO:

Having a girlfriend makes you feel older and cooler.

CON:

Feeling older and more mature than you really are can lead to choices and responsibilities you’re not ready for.

Middle schoolers are naturally interested in sex and all things related, because their bodies are in hormonal overdrive. Having lots of one-on-one time with a romantic interest can open the door to experimentation neither kid is really ready for. Even worse, it seems that the earlier physical relationships start for a teen, the more progressed they are by the high school years. Why let the genie out of the bottle any earlier than necessary?

PRO:

Being known as “Steven’s Girlfriend” gives a 12-year-old girl a sense of identity and a place in the crowd.

CON:

Thinking of yourself in the context of who you are in a relationship before you know who you are by yourself is dangerous.

We all knew that girl or guy in high school who’d always had a girlfriend or boyfriend…until they didn’t. And when they suddenly didn’t, they had no idea how to just be. They were constantly scrambling to get back together with the old flame or rushing head-first into yet another romantic relationship. It goes without saying that this is a dangerous mindset, and can lead to a lifetime of jumping quickly (or staying too long) in relationships that aren’t healthy. Give your child a chance to become more comfortable and mature in his or her own skin, without the need to be identified in any other way.

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In The Comments

What are the pros and cons you've experienced with your kids' middle school romances?


Comments


  • Elizabeth

    All of this is so true… and so sad. Thank you for this!

  • Roslin J. Fields

    My organization has a mentoring program that serves middle and high school girls. These tips are very true for both groups. Thank you. I will be sharing these with the parents.

  • Linda

    Thank you for providing input on this topic. My ten year old, now in intermediate school, is entering this stage. He has never been into girls and is rather shy. But it all changed when a very popular, fun and cute girl started to pursue him. I’ve talked to him about the advantages of being friends with all the kids, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. She doesn’t want him to be friends with other girls and threatens to like other boys if he doesn’t do what she says. She’s very manipulative and successful at it. I’m not sure what to do as he doesn’t want to talk about it….at all. Although he hasnt asked, I’m not allowing him to see her outside of school. It’s still reaching havoc on his friendships with others. Any advice welcome.

    • tricia

      Talk to her parents.

  • Helen

    My daughter is 17 years old and although boys were “all over her” in middle school, I did not allow her to “date.” She just started to like a guy and I still have not given her permission to date, which I consider to be spending time alone. Even at this age, I feel it is important to get to know someone that you have a romantic interest with when there are other people around to see how they interact with the people you care about, like your siblings and your best friend! I thought that this IMOM was Christian related but some of the topics you discuss just throw me for a loop, as I believe you are playing into the secular view of dating. Dating the Christian way involves having a chaperone and seeing someone under the guidance of your parents. Having morals and values in place based on Biblical views on finding a partner will only lead to a partner that will last a lifetime! This society places a lot of emphasis on “dating” when clearly God didn’t create us to bounce around from one romantic interest to another. I don’t understand how parents, especially dads when it comes to daughters, allow their daughters to pursue romantic interests only to have their daughter’s heart broken as well as giving away the most precious thing a human being was meant to give to one person. Clearly this society is falling apart and it makes me sad that we as Christians do not have the same viewpoints when it comes to relationships and our children. It creates a lot of heartache when your children say to you, “But that other Christian kid is allowed to date!” We as parents need to protect our children and not give in to this secular way of living.

    • Jodi

      People can still be Christians without spending their life with someone. My sister was being beat by her husband, but that was her first boyfriend, and she believed that she had to stay with him. I finally got her to stand up for herself. If it weren’t for the extreme Christian beliefs mentioned above, she would have been able to meet a better person, leaving her with far less emotional and physical scars.

  • Denise Finnerty

    Yes, pros and cons. I am a high school teacher by profession and a mother of twin 8th-grade boys. I am very involved in their day-to-day activities and we often discuss topics like this one. They are very open and ask many questions. I think we can all agree on the cons, so I am going to share some of the pros that I have witnessed, specifically with my boys. My point, every child and circumstance is unique so it is difficult to generalize on this topic. My sons have very unique personalities, but are both good students, involved in multiple sports, and are loving and compassionate people. With that said, girls have been “asking them out” since they were in 5th grade and they have had girls for friends since pre-school (because all my friends had girls! :)). I appreciate that my boys are learning and experiencing communicating with girls and getting to know some of the unique characteristics of girls BEFORE hormones set in. Again, they are young enough to ask questions and even my opinion at times since they do think I am a girl expert. 🙂 My boys are pre-pubescent, so hormones are not the motivator behind “dating” a girl… they each have a special girl-friend that they walk to the bus and hug goodbye. They do not own phones, so that is the extent of their relationship, seeing each other at school and being comfortable amongst groups of girls at school. Whether parents know it or not, boys and girls interact at school, so making taboo will only keep them from talking to them about it. I think the con for boys waiting to date when they are old enough (meaning raging hormones), is their hormones may get in the way of liking a girl for who she really is by getting to know her as a person, not just an object of desire. One of the mother’s of a girl at our school told me, “All the girls like your boys because they are such gentlemen.” AND my boys are learning a lot of things about girls in general that they have difficulties navigating, i.e., how competitive they are with each other, the drama, and how some of them are very needy for attention- great topics for discussion. I can handle this middle-school type dating my boys are doing. I am more concerned about them dating later, when self-control will play a major role. I am already praying for their future wives. 🙂

  • Denise Finnerty

    Dana, thank you for starting this conversation. Very real and important conversation for us parents, and for parents to have with their children.

  • Audra Mulvany Hahn

    Helen this is a Christian site. I was raised by very great Chrisian parents and wanted to do all things right and to glorify God. But….in today’s world we have to be more vigilant than others in helping our children with these thoughts and ideas. I was appalled when my 10 year old said she was “dating” a boy at school. and no she cant see him other than school and doesn’t have a phone or facebook. she is now 13 and my youngest child and tests the boundries everyday. seems “everyone” has a boyfriend and all things worldly. I’m the meanest mom to her she thinks but pray everyday she will follow in Christ like manners.

  • Jenniffer

    my 13 year old had a girl friend and he didn’t even know her name…. i have told him more than once that he wasn’t allowed to have a girl friend till he was older and ready but he just smiles and laughts like i am jokeing. i now tell him he isn’t to have a girl friend till he can tell me three weeks in a row what the girls name is…. that one has seemed to stick!

  • Hil mom

    Why not allow the child to be who they want to be. Set clear boundaries, make sure they’re not to be alone together. And as for the inevitable break up be there for your child. Make it a learning experience to teach about dangers of peer and social pressure.

  • lll

    If your kids are like me, they have been having crushes and “dating” for years before middle school. What adults don’t seem to realize is that by the time the kid gets to middle school, we aren’t stupid! We’ve matured a little and we understand that our idea of dating isn’t realistic, or at least we should.
    As a middle schooler, let me give you parents some insight in to, what I think, is the real truth: “dating” in middle school is basically claiming somebody. It’s saying “I like you. No one else has the right to date you. We are accepted to be together and that’s the way I like it.”
    I go to a really good school with good kids. I think if sex is the only issue you have with your kid dating, then it really takes an examination of their maturity. My mom isn’t worried about me; I’m a straight A kid who has never gotten in trouble in my life. If you think your kid would do something like that, or you are concerned for other reasons then talk about with them.
    At my age, we are starting to go slightly past the “claiming” thing and taking it a step further…”claiming” in groups. Allowing group dating with a chaperone is a great alternative and allows your child to explore this new part of their life all within your watchful eye.
    Hope this helped shed some light into the middle aged mind.

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  • Mason Coffer

    For one attraction at ages like 11-18 is human instinct it’s happened for hundreds of thousands of years and there no denying the fact that they you kid will have a crush and letting them date is up to you, there is no right or wrong parenting style (to an extent) but go easy on them at this time they can feel vulnerable and hurt very easily and it can also be cause by parents as well as piers and it can be nice having a shoulder to lean on besides someone there used to and it can help them get ready for marriage by deciding what traits they like as well as look (I’m not trying to be mean but it is an important role just because that’s how we are made) and different people think different people are attractive it all can help and even consider letting them have sleep overs with there bf or gf and at times like this in there life yes hormones are really going but that doesn’t mean we’re are sexually addicted to everything it’s more about spending time cuddling or just getting to know each other while watching a movie or playing a game and everyone from school isn’t whatching you or making fun of you. It’s a time when they can actually sorta get a feel for a relationship even if you think it’s silly or stupid it’s not to them so respect there feelings take from someone who knows (I’m 12) and i personally think it’s a little bias to provide one sentence pro’s and 3-4 paragraph long con’s. It’s not bad it can be used for a learning experience and no you don’t just have a crush on someone for eleven days they usually last months or a year or two. And it feels great when your parents are accepting and willing to see other sides and not just listen to the things that they see or hear for example most bikers are thought to be mean and rude when I reality there really nice they just like riding a motorcycle same thing going for kids we think that just because of hormones anything that is sexual where attracted to but in reality we don’t want to even hear about it and if your kid is a good kid trust them there not to far from becoming an adult litterly 5-6 more years and they’ll be 18 and legally an adult and can legally leave and make there own life without you in it if they wanted and you can’t do anything about it and I’m not trying to pressure you into making a decision but now is a vital time to learning how to live in the real world so you decide on how they veiw things and even you. so ask them how they view things or tell them what’s ok and not ok in a relationship or if they can spend the night at a gf or bf house.