Middle school dating advice for parents

“We don’t have the vocabulary and we don’t have the experiences to be able to help.

We’re learning this at the same time our children are navigating through it.” What follows is a teen dating primer to help your child — and you — forge the valley between child and young adult.

For high schoolers, it can mean that, too, but usually refers to making out at parties or get-togethers.

Kids hook up with people they’ve just met, casual acquaintances and even friends. Jennifer, when asked if hooking up with a guy meant a girl had a crush on him, says dismissively, “Nope.” And Megan concurs: “It would seem very strange to me that a girl would think there’s something there” after a hookup.

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.

What to watch for: If your teen experiences signs of depression weeks after a breakup, appears to be arguing or behaving differently with their boyfriend/girlfriend, withdraws from other friends or shows signs of physical abuse such as bruises or scratches, check with your doctor, school counselor or a community psychologist right away, advise both Gurwitch and Reardon.

Of course, kids who already have relationships — and even some still in the talking phase — will go with that special person, but still as part of a group. If that’s the case, the only thing you can do is offer support and perhaps plan a trip or outing for that night.

To college students, hooking up means having casual sex.

Case in point: There’s a myth in teen circles that you can’t get STDs from oral sex, Gurwitch notes.

She says as cringe-inducing as this conversation will be, it has to get done. “There’s something about not sitting next to each other on a couch that makes this easier for both you and your child.” Just because teens are more casual and sophisticated about dating doesn’t mean they don’t still suffer heartbreak.

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