This is not going to be pretty, Mamas. There will be crying. There will be drama. And, likely, some form of refusing to budge. And, that’s just your side of things. Because your older tween/younger teen is showing an interest in the opposite sex, and you’d like for them to take another look at that toy box in the corner and focus there instead. I mean, just yesterday you were helping them take their first steps.
But, alas, life goes on. And so does your child, as they turn their sights on more interesting things—and people. It is not for us to hold on with the death grip only a mother can muster. It’s our job to prepare. Even in the things we ourselves are not ready for.
Crushing on random boys/girls they see in the mall is one thing. Really wanting to get to know one in particular is another. If your child has a genuine interest in becoming closer friends with someone of the opposite sex, this is a sign that they are ready to handle their first-step relationship.
So, how DO you know if your child is ready for their first boyfriend/girlfriend?
They have a deep appreciation for the other person’s personality. They are smitten with how funny/kind/sweet/caring the other person is. They can look beyond the surface and see who the person is underneath. Encourage them to glean these important things about the other person. Talk about what kind of positive attributes they should look for. Learning to see people for who they are underneath is a tool that will help them in all relationships going forward.
They understand mutual respect. When first relationships start this way, future relationships will as well. Having a talk with your child about respecting the other person’s feelings is paramount to their success. They need to understand that sharing deeper feelings with someone puts both of them in a position of vulnerability. They need to be able to treat the other person’s heart with the same tenderness they would want their own treated. While we often talk about “protecting our hearts”, we also need to stress that when you care about someone, you protect theirs as well. This goes past the relationship too. When a breakup occurs, they need to handle it with tenderness.
They understand what kind of relationship they want, and what it means. Having feelings for someone during late tweenhood/early teenhood is completely normal. But, that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Everything they do has meaning. Holding a hand, putting an arm around a shoulder, hugging—all mean something. Your child needs to understand that meaningful firsts like this shouldn’t just be given away to anyone. And, in many ways, doing one of these things often leads the other person to believe that doing the next is acceptable. Help your child set boundaries in behavior so they know what they are comfortable with before they get into any situation.
They don’t easily surrender to peer pressure. Does your child follow the crowd without thinking about their own wants/needs? Watching how your child reacts to their own peer group will let you know if they are ready to handle relationships outside their own gender. Having a strong sense of self, and confidence in their own ability to handle themselves is important.
You’ve had the sex talk. Ugh. I know. The time has come. But, honestly, they need to hear it from you. Knowledge is power. The more they understand not only how the body works, but the full repercussions of what can happen, they better off they are. This is a good time to talk about what your expectations are of your child in this area, as well as what God has placed as His ideal. Having this talk doesn’t give permission for your child to proceed. It gives them a compass to follow.
Walking through this important milestone with your child can be a true bonding experience that will create an open relationship for future issues they bring to you. This is why you don’t want to dig through your drawer and find that fuzzy-monkey-child-leash you used back in the day. Show them some respect for the young men and women they are becoming. They’re becoming them regardless of how you handle it. So, align yourself as an ally, Mama. Be there for them as they begin to embark on their next baby steps.