Preteen dating is not something that should be taken lightly. In fact, statistics show that preteen dating can lead to serious problems. Depending on whom you talk to, each of the following terms can have a different definition. But this glossary should give parents an idea of what their children are talking about when they mention dating or a relationship. Discussing these terms with your child now can help you set guidelines for the future as you seek God’s plan for his life.
- Talking — When a boy and girl are “talking,” they are casually flirting and showing interest in each other. Most of the time, they are not ready to commit to a relationship and are testing the waters to see if their relationship can go further.
- Drop-Off Dating — Drop-off dating occurs when parents drop their preteen off somewhere they think is safe such as a mall, skating ring, or movie theater. What parents may not realize is often after they are dropped off, their children are picked up and taken to another location.
- Going Out — When two preteens say they are “going out,” they probably mean they are in a relationship that is recognized by their peers as exclusive. Terms like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are used. Preteens can “go out” without going anywhere on a date.
- Group Dating — Group dating can be chaperoned or unchaperoned. When preteens group date, they may go out with older friends who drive. Caution: Going on group dates no longer means that your child is safe from being physically intimate (especially if your preteen group dates with older couples). Many teens and preteens now act the same way in front of their friends that they would alone. In fact, sometimes being with friends actually makes it more difficult for preteens to say “no” to situations in which they are uncomfortable.
- Family Dating — For many, family dating is a good alternative to secular dating. After searching God’s Word and listening to each other, families can choose their own rules and relationship guidelines. Family dating allows parents to get to know their child’s friends in a more natural setting while it still keeps children under the protection and guidance of their parents.
- Courtship — Courtship is a “no nonsense” approach to finding a mate. Courtship is not a casual dating relationship. In fact, some couples wait until marriage to kiss each other. Generally, in courtship, a man will pursue a woman with the ultimate goal of finding a spouse. She, in turn, has the benefit of her family’s support and of knowing the man who is pursuing her is seriously seeking God’s plan for their future instead of a casual relationship.
- FWB (Friends with benefits) — Two good friends who do not want to be in a boy/girl relationship. Instead, they become involved physically whenever it “just happens.”
- Hooking Up — The term “hooking up” equals every parent’s nightmare. And, it does happen with preteens. When two preteens hook up, they get together for one party, one night, or even just one hour. Sometimes, they know each other, and sometimes, they do not. It really does not matter because there are no strings attached, no commitments, and no plans to ever develop a relationship.
It’s important for parents to set guidelines and expectations for their preteens and to talk openly and regularly about their relationships.
Mia Pinson writes regularly for ParentLife magazine and is a middle school teacher in South Carolina. Check out the ParentLife blog and get regular updates on the ParentLife Facebook page or from Twitter – @ParentLife.