Dating for young teens

s prom season approaches, it’s easy to conjure romantic thoughts of dating rituals we experienced long ago.Perhaps the thought of all those sweet young couples slow dancing under paper streamers coaxes a nostalgic sigh or two. If you’re the parent of a child who has recently started middle school, get ready for a decidedly new dating scene.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.Even 14- and 15-year-olds can fall in love, Reardon says.“To a child or teenager who is experiencing this, it is very real and very important,” she says.“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.

That’s because most kids go in large groups and are couples in name only.It’s not unusual for sixth-graders to say, “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend.” Often these relationships develop through texting.These first relationships usually don’t go beyond chatting, posing for pictures later posted on social media and requests to attend coed group outings.Broken hearts after a breakup are real, too, and just as with adults, there’s no timetable for recovery.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.

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