Parent Connection: Middle School

In Remix last night we took a close look at dating to see what God’s Word has to say about it.  What we discovered is that the Bible doesn’t say that dating is either right or wrong, it’s an issue where we need to decide is it wise for us to do.  We discovered that the decision on when we can date is ultimately up to our parents and that we need to respect their decisions in this area.  However when they give us the green light to start dating, we definitely need some advice or tips on what to do to keep from getting into trouble.  We looked about three specific tips for dating.  The first was the make sure that we have relationships that will hold us accountable in our dating relationships.  These are people who can call us out before we get into a dangerous situation.  The second tip was to set clear boundaries from the beginning.  It is important for us to draw lines way before a dangerous area so that if we mess up, we don’t end up in danger.  We need to set those boundaries from the beginning and communicate and agree to live inside those boundaries.  The final tip we had was to commit to work our problems out instead of running from our problems.

Last night we had groups for both middle school students and parents who attended the service.  In the student groups we challenged students to brainstorm appropriate boundaries that will protect them in the areas of their purity, identity, and safety.  In the adult group time we discussed two primary issues.  The first was when is an appropriate time for students to start dating.  We encouraged parents to realize that it is not about an age as much as it is maturity.  We did encourage parents that it is not a wise idea to start dating in Middle School.  To help determine when their student should start dating, we encouraged parents to sit down and come up with certain characteristics/qualities that should be evident in their student’s lives that would indicate they are ready to start dating.  I would encourage you to do the same.  Sit down with your spouse, and create a list of specific characteristics that you are expecting for your student to embody before you will talk about them being able to date.  Once you have created this list, sit down and go over it with your student.  Let them know the qualities that you are expecting out of them so they are aware of your expectations.  Also discuss how these qualities indicate that they are ready to start dating.  This can really help to diffuses arguments later on down the road about when they can date because they already know and understand the qualities you are looking for before they can talk about dating.

In the second part of the parent group, we challenged parents to come up with appropriate boundaries that would help keep their students protected in the area of their purity, identity, and safety.  We challenged them to sit down with their spouse and come up with at least three boundaries in each area.  Then we encouraged them to sit down with their student and begin to discuss with them what appropriate boundaries should be in place in each of those three areas.  Even though you already have the boundaries you want to see put in place, by involving your student, you will create buy-in from them on these boundaries.  Who knows, they may even come up with some that you didn’t think of.

Once you all have agreed upon those boundaries, put them in writing, even if they are not ready to start dating.  Talk about dating and your boundaries often, so when they are ready, it is engrained in their minds the boundaries and expectations when they are dating.  Remember appropriate dating boundaries should involve input from your teen, be clear and consistent, be appropriate to their age and maturity level, and that they may need to adjust as they mature and prove responsibility and trust.

I would also encourage you as parents to have ongoing conversations with your teen about the qualities and characteristics that should be evident in the lives of someone they would want to date.  Again, even if they are not ready to start dating, these conversations can lay an appropriate foundation for them when they are ready to start.

The subject of dating is often a tough one for parents, but don’t be afraid to have the conversation.  Remember, they are getting messages from all around them in school about this.  They need to hear your perspective, so be involved, even if they try to push you away.  Let’s fight for the hearts of our students, and not allow the enemy to destroy them in this area.