By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner
Only you know, for sure, when the right time will present itself to have “the talk” with your kids. But, chances are, if you’re the parent of a tween, your kid may already be experiencing romantic drama in his or her own world. Did you know that one out of six 8 -11 year olds sees other students “kissing or making out” and 45% want more information on how to know when they are ready for a boyfriend or girlfriend1? Here’s what I told my 10-year-old daughter about kissing, romance, and “dating” >
“Mom, Teagan and Royce kissed on the lips behind a tree on the playground today.”
A few months ago my 10-year-old daughter reported this to me as I tucked her into bed. I heard the angst behind the simple statement and noticed her furrowed brow. And although I was tired, and wanted nothing more than to curl up with a good book under my own blankets, I scooted her over and crawled into bed with her.
“Hmmm….tell me more,” I probed a little deeper.
Cue the flood gates: Jack likes Julia; Colton and Maggie are going together; Judy once kissed Jake in the hall for 10 seconds; Simon says my daughter would be perfect for Marcus (I didn’t ask perfect for what), and so on and so forth. Oh, and also Olivia sometimes gets love letters from a mystery boy, but a fair number of people think she’s writes them herself—to get attention, they suppose.
It turns out there is A LOT of fourth grade drama in her world. And judging by the statistics above, she’s not alone.
Among her closest friends are four boys and one other girl. People outside this group have started teasing her, she says, about how much she and Corey like each other. She thinks he’s funny and nice and wonders if she might actually “like-like” him. But mostly right now she wishes people would leave her alone about it.
I listened more than I talked that night, a practice I generally find to be among the best, but did offer her three bits of wisdom gleaned from my own years of drama, friendship, parenting, and youth work:
1. If you feel uncomfortable about something you see or something someone tells you, it’s always a good idea to talk to an adult you trust (together we decided to report the playground kissing, without naming names, to the principal).
2. Ten is not at all too young to have romantic feelings for someone, but it is very young to have exclusive relationships that leave out other friends.
3. Physical touch is an important way we express our close feelings for others. Things like holding hands, sitting close together, and hugging are all ways we can show and feel love and caring and trust. And these things feel good. Some touch is much more personal and therefore makes our feelings about it more complicated and confusing. It’s important that we save these most personal kinds of touch, like kissing, for people we trust and love very much.
So, knowing the statistics you now know about young people and relationships and physical expressions of love, what do you think of my advice to my daughter? Would you have approached the conversation differently?
1. The Nickelodeon / Talking with Kids National Survey of Parents and Kids is a nationally representative survey of parents and their children age 8-15. The survey was designed by staff at Nickelodeon, the Kaiser Family Foundation and International Communications Research (ICR).
2. Image via www.courtneycarmody.com on Flick’r.