It's no secret your tween is growing up. Almost overnight she's gone from collecting dolls to being obsessed with her smartphone. And just when you've wrapped your head around the fact that she's getting older, she tells you she and her crush want to be each other's valentine.
You feel she's far too young to date, so you wonder if letting her have a valentine and exchange gifts with him is too close to dating. And after school on Valentine's Day a group of kids (including her crush) want to hang out. What should you do?
Shannan Younger, a "Tween Us" blogger on ChicagoNow and a mother of a tween, says, "I feel strongly that parents can and should set boundaries when it comes to what activities they are comfortable with children engaging in on Valentine's Day. A lot of this depends on the age of the tween in question — there's a big difference between elementary school and junior high."
Younger adds, "Parents can and should recognize that hormones are certainly in play with their 12-year-olds, and crushes are very normal. They cannot forbid their children's feelings and should take this as an opportunity to have an open dialogue with their child, both about their feelings and about what the parents' expectations are. Hopefully they can find a middle ground where they can both be comfortable. Perhaps flowers are okay, but one-on-one unsupervised time is not."
"I think it is perfectly fine for parents to say that they are not ready for their children to date. I know some friends who are okay with their fifth graders going on dates, and while I am not at that point, I think it is about what works for each family. I also don't think parents should make exceptions for Valentine's Day, as that sets up struggles on other non-holidays," says Younger.
Have a conversation with your tween, not just about your expectations but also hers. Would she even be comfortable receiving flowers from this boy? What does she think it means that she and this boy are exchanging gifts? When she goes to the group event after school, will she spend the whole time talking to her friends? Her answers might surprise you.
She may not be taking this whole Valentine's Day thing that seriously. But if she is, you'll find that out, too. And, together, you can come up with a plan that makes sense. In the end, Valentine's Day should be about having fun and eating chocolate!
If you decide that you are okay with your tween being a part of a group activity on Valentine's Day, an option is for you to host that gathering. It might ease the transition and make you feel more comfortable if her crush and some of her other friends come to your house.
If you let your tween help plan the party, you'll be sure to learn a lot more about this boy she has a crush on, as well as her day-to-day life. It will be a great bonding experience for both of you.
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