Pre-teens: gossip, involvement in friends' relationships, "who likes who", setting kids up, and etc. Developmentally appropriate? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 11-28-2013, 08:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My DC is 12. For the last year or so she and her friends (girls and boys) have a very strong interest in talking about relationships. It's mainly "who likes who". There is some discussion of some of the kids who have had their first hand-holding or kisses. There are some discussions of "dates". 

 

Additionally there are some talks about arranging "play dates" that include two kids who "like" each other and sort of trying to help orchestrate a get together between these kids. 

 

This has been confusing to me in terms of how to help DC navigate all of this. Some of this is obviously harmless and developmentally positive. (Right?)  But from time to time things have blurred the lines of healthy peer support to something a little less positive. 

 

For instance, at some point last year some girls were in my car telling me about this plan they had to go as a group to the movies and sit behind the two friends of theirs who are a couple so as to help create a more "date like" experience. At this point I explained to these kids that I didn't feel comfortable with that and would not allow it. I talked with them about the fact that I thought relationship choices should be 100% up to the people in the relationships and that these things should progress on their own w/o help from friends. I gave some examples and things seemed to sink in. 

 

But, I think the urge to talk about these things, to brainstorm, to plan, and dream in these kids is so strong that I don't see the above being the end of that. 

 

And it wasn't... 

 

My DC was at a party last weekend where a boy was dared to text the girl he liked to tell her that he wanted to be her boyfriend. Intel from the party is still surfacing but it appears that another child a the party may have even typed the text in to his phone for him. So, yea, kids are really not getting the message that their friend's relationships are really none of their business. 

 

Stepping away from the specifics (there is a whole 'nother thread about the texting if you want to talk more about that)... 

 

What have been your kids' experiences with this sort of thing? Do you think my DC's group is more interested in this than your average kid? How do you offer your pre-teens guidance on this? Do you know any good sources of information for parents or kids about this? 


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#2 of 3 Old 11-28-2013, 09:51 AM
 
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I think there's a ton of grey area in this. I think friends' relationships are in reality the bread and butter of pre-teens' social business. To deny that is probably going to seem hopelessly unrealistic to the kids involved. While this interest and interference can often be a cause of problems I also think that peers do have a big role to play in coaching each other through relationship approach stuff and providing support. The trick is really how to support and facilitate without pressuring and intruding and creating problems. I think that's the line you're trying to help your dd walk, but I would frame it differently than "it's not your business."

 

My two middle kids (brother and sister) have always shared a peer group, and they have been very helpful to each other in navigating pre-romantic and romantic relationships. It's so much easier for ds to tell his sister "I think H. kinda likes you," and then report back to H. on her lukewarm reaction, than for H. to ask her out and get shut down, or for her to be too embarrassed and respond politely for fear of hurting his feelings and fail to be clear that she's not really interested in anything more than a friendship. I think that when kids do this for each other it can be helpful at a time when they don't have the confidence and experience to deal graciously with the intricacies of relationships. Having supportive intermediaries can minimize the vulnerability involved in putting yourself out there and help avoid mis-steps.

 

I think the important point is that if you're acting as an intermediary, you need to be sure that you're only doing as much as your friend wants. You need to keep asking "Is _ [my friend]__ okay with this?" And repeatedly, sensitively and discreetly checking in with the friend "Are you okay with me doing this?" And that's where a dare will very likely cross the line, because you're not discreetly asking the affected individual, you're challenging him or her in public.

 

My kids have not experienced much of this at age 12, but they were homeschooled at that age and their socializing was more in multi-age large groups, or in groups of 2-4 agemates where this relationship-jostling tends not to take root. But by age 14 or so they were certainly experiencing a bit of it. Not to the extent I think you're describing, but yeah, some of it's normal.

 

I think the important thing is to keep the lines of communication open with your girl and to just keep pulling the issues back to root values of honesty, integrity, autonomy and respect.

 

Miranda

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#3 of 3 Old 11-28-2013, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

I think there's a ton of grey area in this. I think friends' relationships are in reality the bread and butter of pre-teens' social business. To deny that is probably going to seem hopelessly unrealistic to the kids involved. While this interest and interference can often be a cause of problems I also think that peers do have a big role to play in coaching each other through relationship approach stuff and providing support. The trick is really how to support and facilitate without pressuring and intruding and creating problems. I think that's the line you're trying to help your dd walk, but I would frame it differently than "it's not your business."

 

Great post, Miranda - thank you!  

 

Because the adult population at my DC's school got too gossipy for my tastes on occasion, I guess I'm worried about pre-teen/teen/adult gossip. That's where the "none of your business" thing came from. I am also starting to look to the future for my own DC. I want her to have a very overreaching concept of consent in that I want her to know that consent is important in the whole process.  Recently, for instance, she told me a boy in her class "likes" her. He is a old friend and I think a small part of my DC felt like she should "like him back" because he likes her. What I want more than anything for my DC in terms of learning about relationships is that it's her choice what to do and who to like from the very beginning. That's why I'm a little uncomfortable with friends offering to be the middle man. Because, as in the example of the party where a friend encouraged someone to send a text (and maybe even typed the text for him), being the go between is very difficult navigate at this age (at any age, really).  

 

I will take your suggestion that maybe I should reconsider my feelings on the place friends play in mediating romance. Because, I agree 100% that denying the urge to do this may well be unrealistic on my part and I think being understanding of these temptations is one key to keeping communication open. 

 

Wonderful, thoughtful post. Thanks so much! 


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