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Don’t Rush the Growing Up

by Lori Sciame | August 8th, 2012 | Tweens
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A tween who has older siblings may try to act older than his or her age, yet this can backfire. Doing so can place a child into situations he or she is not mentally ready for, including relationships with the opposite sex. Parents should strive to allow a tween to be just that, a tween, even though the youngest may want to act “grown up.”

I have an acquaintance that literally encouraged her child to date exclusively in 7th grade. She relished bringing her daughter’s boyfriend shopping, to church, and even to family holiday celebrations. She beamed when she stated her younger daughter could double-date with her older daughter! Talk about pressure to grow up early.Not only was this tween expected to act like a much older teen, she was rewarded with parental approval for doing so.

As a parent, I hope you can see that the mother sent this tween the wrong message. Through the mother’s actions, the daughter was forced to tackle issues that she would not be mentally ready to address. One such issue — sexuality.

Of course tweens are curious about sex. Their bodies change at this age, and they begin to have feelings for others that they have never felt before. By pushing a child into exclusive relationships too early, there is more of a chance of experimentation that can actually result in pregnancy. I know parents don’t want their young children to become parents, but it does happen. In my hometown’s school district, there were two pregnant 12-year-olds, and three pregnant 13-year-olds last year alone. Shocking? Yes!

Thank goodness pregnancies in tweens are rare; however, there are other consequences for promoting early relationships. For instance, a tween who spends a lot of time with a boyfriend or girlfriend does not spend enough time developing a true sense of self. Instead of thinking about what type of music he or she likes, a boy or girl will focus on what the other person in the relationship likes to listen to. That’s a simple example, yet I think it accurately shows that a child becoming his or her own person is stymied by being forced into early relationships.

Another problem with early dating — a child does not spend enough with his or her own peer group. Tweens need to learn to interact with those of the same sex. This aids the process of maturation. Do you remember how much fun you had in middle school going to movies, roller skating, or even playing basketball with your friends? Wouldn’t it be a shame to rob a tween of a similar experience?

You may wonder what happened to the tween I knew that began dating so early. Sadly, she had her first baby as a junior in high school. Although her mother has been supportive, the daughter has had to grow up way too soon. So, if you have teenage children, as well as a tween, make a conscious effort to not rush the growing up!

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