Only 12 years old and we are talking about boyfriends or girlfriends? How innocent and fun it can be if it is addressed correctly. We are talking probably around 6th or 7th grade. Yes, it can be somebody from school, a neighbor, his or her best friend's brother or sister, hopefully somebody you know.
And I wonder, how can I prepare my children to manage this relationship correctly? We are not talking about formality, we are talking about respect, fun, setting the foundations for future relationships.
Let’s start by talking to them about the definition of friend and friendship: a friend is a person you know well and regard with affection and trust; who provides assistance; a person who backs you; and friendship is a type of interpersonal relationship that is found among humans and among animals with rich intelligence. Friends will seek out each others company and exhibit mutually helping behavior. A friend is somebody that leads you to the right path, so that probably this first step towards a person of the other gender, is more like the discovery of a good friend. The beginnings of commitment, of trust.
Then let's talk to them about respect for themselves, for their intimacy, for their belongings; their body is not something that they can experiment or play with. Not everything that they do to their body can be undone, tell them not to play with it. This is serious. Feelings: they are great, memorable, exciting, but their brain has to have control over them. Their body will express their feelings and their brain has to learn to manage them.
As a parent, be vigilant, strive to have a fluent communication with your children and insist on inviting their friends over. Group plans are mandatory, couple plans are forbidden. Lots of sports, plenty of enrichment programs, art, music, other languages, will keep their minds busy and growing.
Try not to get too involved, remember that these first relationships will, in most cases, end faster than you think. Discretely, try to prepare your kids for the most likely eventual break-up, so it won’t hurt that much.
Soon there will be another one. Good luck to us all!
The wonderful Pam Stenzel has great books and DVDs that are VERY HELPFUL in these challenging times. We HIGHLY recommend them.