As prom season approaches, it’s easy to conjure romantic thoughts of dating rituals we experienced long ago.Perhaps the thought of all those sweet young couples slow dancing under paper streamers coaxes a nostalgic sigh or two. If you’re the parent of a child who has recently started middle school, get ready for a decidedly new dating scene.Yes, the prom as we knew it still exists, but even its drama pales in comparison to today’s boy-girl relationship issues.“It’s not your parents’ dating anymore,” concedes Robin Gurwitch, a clinical psychologist at the Duke Center for Child and Family Health.
Ed Parrish, a banker and father of four from Graham, has noticed that his 13-year-old son has started asking his older sister if her friend’s younger sister can join her on visits to the Parrish home. Sometimes, his son will go to the movies with guy friends and “meet up” with a group of girls from school, Parrish says.
He feels comfortable with these early forays because “we’ve given him the talk about the need to respect young ladies and what we expect of him.”What to watch for: Cellphones and social media can lay traps for preteens and young teens.
Parents should establish ground rules for texting members of the opposite sex and explain the importance of avoiding any form of “sexting.” Parents should also monitor their child’s text conversations and follow/friend them on any social media sites where they have accounts.
Young teens have especially fragile egos, so negative peer feedback on social media can be especially damaging.
These first relationships usually don’t go beyond chatting, posing for pictures later posted on social media and requests to attend coed group outings.