When another fifth-grade mom called to tell me her son had planned to ask my daughter to be his girlfriend, I wasn’t excited. My husband and I decided we would discourage “pretend” romances for our children in an effort to protect their innocence and to let them be who they are: kids.
1. Waiting to date lets them be kids.
Delaying dating frees kids from the anxiety that comes with complex male-female dynamics. Your children will become teenagers before you’re ready for it. A growing body of research, including a study by the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, shows that kids are going through puberty earlier than previous generations did and it is cause for concern among health professionals. The saddest part is it cuts short the carefree innocence of childhood. Don’t exacerbate the problem by suggesting your child consider a classmate a romantic partner. Dating that young can heighten the stress they’re already under as their bodies change while they approach adolescence.
2. Waiting to date protects their purity.
Delaying dating may protect a child’s purity and guard him or her from the dangers presented by premarital sex. We know there are lots of steps between giving a girl a box of Valentine’s Day candy in fourth grade to experimenting sexually. But they’re not completely unrelated. Young people who tip-toe around the fringes of a romantic relationship by holding hands or kissing at an earlier age likely will have sex sooner. If you can delay the point at which the progression of curiosity and experimentation begins, you increase the odds of helping your child save sex for marriage.
3. Waiting to date protects their self-esteem.
Allowing your children to define themselves as someone else’s mate while their own identity and sense of self is just developing is dangerous. Why? A child might become a boy or girl who doesn’t even know who he or she is outside of “so-and-so’s significant other.” Delaying dating gives them time to learn who they are before they’re subjected to others’ expectations. A child who is secure in his or her own skin will have more successful and healthy relationships later in life.
A child who is secure in his or her own skin will have more successful and healthy relationships later in life.
4. Waiting to date underlines the value of friendship.
Friendships are an important part of life. Let your child spend his or her childhood learning what it means to be 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, an enduring friendship—more than fickle romance—is the foundation for most successful marriages.
What are your thoughts on kids dating?