4 Conversations We Need to Have With Our Tweens

A long, long time ago, I taught one year of first grade.

It kicked my butt.

It was hard and I realized not everyone who likes kids should be a teacher.

I loved recess the most–like most of my students. I loved it because the kids would get out their pent-up energy. And the 6-7 year olds loved it because it was free time. It was also the time they would talk. And by talk, I mean share. New words were learned and stories were told.

The playground is where my daughter first heard the words french kissing. Which is obviously kissing in Paris. And before you think this is why we don’t send our kids to public school, a homeschool friend explained the word porn. Because kids.

Row of students

There is education and then there is education. We need to talk to our kids about things kids are talking about. I don’t want my kids believing everything they hear, but if I’m too embarrassed or too shy to brooch the subject, then I’m having to reteach something they already have an opinion on–likely from George on the playground who has a big brother or Sally who watches too-mature movies.

4 Conversations We Need to Have:

1. We need to talk about sex and all the words we don’t want to say out loud: Y’all. Playgrounds have moved way beyond our memories of it…like when we heard you could be pregnant by kissing in your bathing suit. Kids are exposed to so much more with apps and iphones, unlimited freedom and our sex-crazed culture. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids what they’ve heard. But more importantly, teach them what is right and wrong from God’s standard. And start by listening. When we are quiet, waiting for them to talk, often they do.

2. Address the boyfriend/girlfriend thing: It took all of 9 days of the 6th grade before a girl was asking my son to be her boyfriend. He was shocked and slightly offended. His classic answer, “I’m just a kid. I’m way too young for that. Thanks, anyway!” We have a society of aggressive girls who aren’t afraid to chase our sons. Some parents my expect their tweens and younger teens (under 16) to dip their toes in the “dating” waters, but we don’t encourage boy/girl stuff. At all. It’s not cute or funny. There’s a time and place for it, but it’s not now.

After some probing after an article I read, I asked my 8th grade daughter if anyone ever did “slap ass Friday” (where boys will slap girls on the butt in the halls, while lockering, etc). She said she had seen it going on, but the school was very strict to stop it. “Plus, Mom, boys know I would turn them in so quick! They wouldn’t dare.” We often don’t say anything because we’re afraid we’ll expose our kids to things too soon. We can’t buy into that anymore. If your child is in public or even private school–or frankly, around other kids their age, we need to begin these conversations.

3. The importance of not fitting in: There is a lot of pressure to be like everyone else. I would say it’s even overwhelming pressure at this age. If your kids don’t have church or positive community within or outside of school, they are going to feel some pressure to comply with culture norms. This isn’t always terrible. It’s part of growing up. There is a part in all of us that longs to fit in, but we need to remind our kids that it’s okay to be different.  We need to be talking with our kids about it and praying for good, Godly friends to be a part of their lives. There is a lot of experimenting in tween and teen years. If you’re raising your kids in a with Godly ideals, don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

P.S.  Clothes start becoming a big deal. My son never cared about what he wore to elementary. The first day of the 6th grade changed that. It was a pretty easy shift for me to buy him athletic shorts instead of Osh Kosh (sorry, he’s my baby). I just didn’t know until he told me his preference. And It’s okay to say no to things or fads that aren’t in your child’s best interest. Just because it’s being sold in the stores and “everyone else is wearing it” isn’t enough reason for us to jump on a bandwagon. Modesty is a thing, too.

4. The conversation where we don’t say anything. This is the season where our kids often clam up and stop telling us everything. I think it’s probably because it’s the season parents talk a lot.We list the rules, we nag, we remind, we speak before we listen.  But I’m learning the less I say, the more they open up. Instead of asking “how’s your day?” and waiting for the trite answer, if I’m quiet, they often tell me much more. This might be one of the most important conversations of all.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about anything. They are waiting for you to, whether they know it or not.

Read more about my unexpected journey of wild obedience in Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is No Longer Enough.

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    As the mother of two adults, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said. I was a single mom and it’s even harder for single parents to have these conversations without the backup of another parent and because, well, tired! But they still have to be broached. I also loved what you said here: “Some parents my expect their tweens and younger teens (under 16) to dip their toes in the “dating” waters, but we don’t encourage boy/girl stuff. At all. It’s not cute or funny.” It isn’t cute or funny and I’m amazed (and honestly, appalled) when adults think it is. If we don’t have these conversations with our kids, someone else will.

    • 1.1

      audioadi says

      I agree. Here is a funny. Last summer my 19 year old thought it just wonderful that two sets of friends got married…kids in their early twenties. Now both sets of newlyweds are having babies. But the bottom line is they are struggling. “But what if you meet your soulmate when you are 17 or 18?” was her typical question. She has just turned twenty and recently came to me saying that she now sees our rationale for waiting —waiting to date, waiting to become serious, waiting to become comfortable in her own skin–waiting and working on her relationship with God. For a girl who was adamant that dating early is not a bad thing, she has changed her tune. The irony is these young were old enough to ‘take on life’, but most of us fail tor realize how much maturing occurs in the twenties.

      This idea of “dating” at 10/11/12 is ridiculous. Too.much.pressure. It is becoming quite counter cultural to want kids to hang out in groups of guys and girls so they can begin to understand the opposite sex in general –not specifics.

  2. 2

    Kim says

    Yes, yes, yes to the not dipping “their toes in the “dating” waters”! My 13 year old daughter’s friends even know where I stand on this. She just finished 7th grade and one of her friends had several “boyfriends” during the year, and went through who knows how much heartbreak over “breakups”. Our house rule is that dating can begin at 16, and I don’t think we’ll have much trouble from the 13 year old. She has her crushes and boys she finds “cute” but that’s about it. The 10 year old, however…. she’s the one we’ll have to watch. We’ve been having these conversations already, but thanks for the encouragement to keep going! It is vital to keep the door of communication open.

  3. 3

    says

    Yes — we homeschool our two children, but it’s still as important as ever to have these conversations. Kids are kids, no matter where they go to school and it’s important to be open, honest, and a great listener when they are at this tender age.

    • 3.1

      audioadi says

      We h’schooled too and have one more kid to get through high school. These are still important conversations. We don’t live under a rock, our kids have friends who are actively involved in premature dating.

  4. 4

    Carrie Jo says

    Thank you so much for this excellent post! I have three little ones and we plan on homeschooling (my husband and I were both homeschooled from 1st-12th :) but I know these topics and more are going to be known by my kids much earlier than I think. I am amazed how much our culture has changed just since I was in school! Your reminder to not be afraid and to say something first (or a close second, lol) and to talk to them and share God’s and our family’s ways is so important and so good for me!
    Blessings, Carrie

  5. 5

    Susan says

    We have had discussions about dating and that it’s not appropriate when you are young. However my 14 year old son has just decided to have a “girlfriend”. It is innocent enough right now but I am beside myself. We have 2 issues here. 1 of disobedience and 1 of having a girlfriend. Help. I don’t know what to do

  6. 6

    Kim says

    I teach 5th grade and have the boyfriend/girlfriend conversation early and often with my students. I tell the girls that they are too special and valuable to “date” every boy around. I tell the boys that they don’t want any girl that chases them. The right girl will make him chase her….hard! Of course, all of this doesn’t apply until at least college! I can only hope they believe me. *sigh*

    • 6.1

      Sarah says

      I’m not really okay with the idea that it’s “wrong” for a girl to chase a boy :( I don’t believe in teaching girls to wait for boys to tell them their worth or that they aren’t allowed to take control of their future. A girl isn’t valuable because a boy says so or because he chases her. The bible is full of praise for take-charge women who defied gender roles like that.

      • 6.1.1

        audioadi says

        I see what you’re saying, but when a girl pursues or chases a boy (especially at these ridiculously young ages), she is looking for validation from the boy. She is pursuing that approval. She is setting herself up for rejection and disappointment. I am the mother of three adult daughters, I want them to be strong for themselves and in their faith. If they have to pursue a man to the altar, then he doesn’t want to be there.

  7. 7

    K.A. says

    I did all of these things and more (Christian school, purity retreats, open dialogue, no dating) with my 15 year old girl. Unfortunately, she still made the choice to engage in sexual activities with boys. I am just trying to love her and remember that she has to live with consequences of her actions. Hardest time in my life right now.

    • 7.1

      Danielle says

      Wow, that’s hard and I’m so sorry your family is going through that. No condemnation, just love and prayers for healing.

  8. 9

    Heather S. says

    Amen, Kristen! I just had this exact convo with my workout partner this morning! She told me that she’s not bothered to talk about this stuff with her oldest daughter (12), but that the daughter doesn’t want to. I say, “tough” – it needs to be talked about and she’s going to hear it from somewhere, so it’s best taught by mom and dad the way God intended first.
    Yesterday at church the sermon was on marriage and sexuality. They put up great big signs all over stating the sermon was PG-13. My girls asked later “what was so PG-13 about the sermon.” I said, “Nothing really, they taught what the Bible has to say about marriage and sex. Stuff you already know because you’ve read it straight from God’s Word.” My 10 and 12 year old girls just shrugged it off. It’s not a big deal to them because it is a continuing conversation in our home. Why is it that we think it’s OK to discuss all of the violence of the Bible in church without any *warnings* – but it we talk about sex we have to put out a disclaimer? And really, if the pastor had apologized one more time for having to discuss it…..ugh!

  9. 10

    Ruth Simpson says

    Amen to all of this!! I’ve raised 3 children. One is 22 , graduated college and married now, middle child is a Junior in college, and my youngest just turned 17! I was able to stay home with my kids for 11 years until our youngest started K. and then I went to work in the school district they all were in, so that we were all on the same schedule. I went to all of their school activities, unless they were at the same time, and then my husband or my parents would split up. But that didn’t happen very often. I talked with each of my children, every day when I’d pick them up from each school, and when we’d get home. I loved being so close to my kids! I think now days, you have to stay involved with your kids or you will lose them.

  10. 12

    says

    Your blog resonates with me in many ways…and I love reading your posts. I’m not a Christian, but the points are still all the same for any family trying to raise their kids right in a world that wants nothing more than to lead them astray. It’s a constant (and worthwhile) battle for parents to make sure their kids make healthy choices. I agree whole-heartedly that our kids want to talk. As a teacher of middle school kids, I see the complex social learning and maze-running that my students go through every day. The drama, the worries, the sometimes scary events and decisions they have to make. They are fascinated with each other. And when the hormones hit, any adult would be hard-pressed to stop them. BUT, the kids who come from homes where parents help them navigate the raging “tween” river do soooo much better than the kids who are on a self-made raft with no oars. Every parent should be giving their kids tools to get through it…or other kids will…and it’s usually the kids on the self-made rafts. They will acquire knowledge (true or not, appropriate or not) regardless of what we do; it’s best that we have a say in what they know as truth, no matter how hard it is to talk about it, and no matter what kind of school they attend. I so appreciate that you have addressed this.

  11. 14

    CJ says

    While I agree with a lot in this article. I have a small issue with the face that as long as our children are around godly people they will automatically be ok. I just have to say that even if we do not attend a religious gathering once a week does not mean our children are automatically doomed!

  12. 15

    Sarah says

    I am deeply troubled by this: “We have a society of aggressive girls who aren’t afraid to chase our sons.”
    I am shocked that someone who works with and helps women, so many of whom are victims of rape, would allow that kind of allocation of blame to creep into her thought process. The idea that tween girls are aggressively pursuing your sons is part of the same culture that blames victims of rape instead of their rapists (she was never “asking for it”). It’s the same culture that led a judge in Montana to serve 30 days for raping a 14 year old girl because she was “older than her chronological age” ( which sentence was mercifully overturned and extended http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-senior-high-teacher-gets-days-for-rape-of-student/article_b1f84190-ef23-5868-8799-b779c0421dc1.html#.UhzzKLoIbxk.email).
    I challenge you to think more deeply about what is at stake here. Don’t blame adolescent girls for our culture’s unhealthy relationship with sex. Teach your son to behave in a gentlemanly manner– presuming to label young women as aggressive only justifies young men to act inappropriately.

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