Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Middle School Dating


In Middle School, some girls and boys ask each other to go out or date. Going out or dating is synonymous with going steady from a previous generation.

Going out does not usually mean actually going out on a date, nor is going on dates recommended for middle school students. If the girl and boy agree to go out or date, there is an agreed upon allegiance that may last for a day, several weeks or even months. The two individuals who are dating may sit together at lunch or reflection. Sometimes they are just good friends and other times there is a romantic aspect.

The teachers and administration at St. Mary’s Academy Middle School are aware that dating or going out is part of social development in the middle school years for some students. We do not encourage it.

Dating or going out in middle school can have negative repercussions on the formation of identity, but may not. At the least, middle school dating is academically and socially distracting. Often the middle school students who date are perceived as popular. Being popular brings a pressure to maintain an image that may feel false. Often dating is at the center of social drama.

There are studies that support the delay of dating. Following, is one link that might lead to others if you are interested in exploring the findings. My experience and observations as a middle school educator lead me to strongly recommend that parameters for young love be thoughtfully considered and applied.  http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/tween-middle-school-dating-stories/

·      Make yourself available for or initiate discussions about ‘dating’ or going out.
·      Inform your child of your position and expectations in regards to going out. Do you allow it? What behavior do you expect? What are the parameters? (While your child would say the opposite, the majority of parents discourage romantic alliances in middle school.)
·      Provide your child with ways to say no to a request to go out. Many children do not know how to say no. They worry about hurting feelings or being put down by others. Give them permission and words to refuse. You can give them permission to use your disapproval of going out as a reason to say no.
·      Prepare your child for refusals should he/she ask someone to go out. Respecting another’s right to refuse is a valuable social skill and allows room for friendship to flourish afterward.
·      Set boundaries for your child if you do allow him/her to go out.
It is not recommended that you allow your middle school child to go on a date such as to the movies or to the mall without adult proximity. Allowing a couple or a mixed group to hang out in the basement out of earshot and without intermittent parental presence is not recommended.
·      Discourage pre-arranged dates at school socials and mixers. These events are more enjoyable for everyone when the group is fluid.
·      Be aware that in middle school, good friendships can become troubled when one of the two develops a boy/girlfriend relationship and the other does not. The one without the boy or girlfriend may feel left out, frustrated, or irritated with his/her friend’s preoccupation and lack of attention. Be a good listener for your child’s dismay or sadness.

Tomorrow, for a middle school student, everything changes. The academic, emotional, and social development among this age group is dramatic.

There are no one-size-fits-all rules. Friendships can change from day to day. Moods change quickly. Listen to your child and provide suggestions and strategies for him/her to implement. Empathize, but do not over-react.

Set boundaries. Your child will of course say, “But everyone else is allowed.” That isn’t true. A few others are allowed. Trust yourself as a parent. Help your child with boundaries whether it is in regards to dating or any of the complex issues he/she faces.