4 Reasons to Delay Romance
It seemed innocent enough. Cute, even. But when another 5th-grade mom called me to let me know that her son was going to ask my daughter to be his girlfriend, I wasn’t excited about the idea. My husband and I had decided that we were going to discourage early “pretend” romances for our children in an effort to protect their innocence and to let them be children. What’s the big deal? Here are the potential benefits of holding romance at bay for your child:
1. It lets them be kids, free from the anxiety that comes with complex male-female dynamics. Your children will become teenagers before either of you are ready for it. A growing body of research shows that kids are experiencing puberty earlier than previous generations did, and it is cause for concern among health professionals. But the saddest part of it all is that it cuts short the carefree innocence of childhood. Don’t exacerbate the problem by suggesting that your child should consider classmates as romantic partners, because this may heighten the stress they’re already under with their changing bodies and typical confusion about how to go from acting like a child to acting like a teen.
2. It may protect their purity and guard them from the dangers of premarital sex. We know it’s a long way from giving a girl a box of Valentine candy in fourth grade to sexual experimentation, but they’re not completely unrelated. Young people who begin to tippy-toe around the fringes of a romantic relationship (holding hands, kissing) at an earlier age will likely experience their first sexual intercourse at an earlier age. If you can delay the point at which the progression of curiosity and experimentation begins, you increase the odds of helping your child preserve sex for marriage.
3. It can protect their self-esteem. Allowing your son or daughter to define himself or herself as someone else’s mate while their own identity and sense of self is just developing is dangerous. Why? She may become that girl who doesn’t even know who she is outside of being “so-and-so’s girlfriend,” or vice versa. Give them more time to learn who they are, before they’re subjected to the expectations of others. A child who is happy and secure in her own skin will have more successful and healthy relationships later on in life. What’s the good in seeing a fragile middle-schooler devastated because she was dumped by some 7th-grade boy who doesn’t have a clue who he is or what he wants? Puppy-love tween romances can be brutal when they go bad. Spare your child the heartache until she’s mature enough to survive it with her sense of self intact.
4. It underlines the value of friendship. Friendships are an important part of life. Let your child spend his or her childhood focusing on what it means to be a good friend and to have a good friend. By allowing our kids to gallop full-speed toward romantic relationships, we may undercut their focus on friendships, which offer rich rewards for a lifetime. After all, enduring friendship—more than fickle romance—is the relational foundation for most successful marriages.
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