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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Is my 12-year-old daughter old enough to have a boyfriend?

June 23, 2016

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

Sometimes our kids say they’re ready for the next step toward independence and we totally agree. We celebrate the milestone, brief them on the house rules, making double sure we’re all on the same page, then we let them go and hold our breath. When they stumble, we listen with compassion and as much patience as we can muster. We help them evaluate their mistakes and we hold them accountable. And they do better next time.

That’s how we all learn.

But sometimes we’re just not convinced they’re ready, no matter how fiercely they lobby us. Then what? That’s where this mom finds herself…

Dear Annie: 

Is it okay for my 12-year-old to have a boyfriend if she seems emotionally ready? She seems pretty mature when it comes to situations like this, but is she too young? – Worried Mom

Important question. Glad she asked. Here’s my response…

Dear Worried Mom:

Is this an abstract question coming from your daughter or does she already have a boyfriend and is trying to back-date the permission slip?

You ask “Is it okay?” and you sign your letter Worried Mom. That tells me you don’t think it’s okay. It doesn’t matter what I think. She’s twelve. You’re her mom. You make the rules. But it’s not always that simple, is it? Twelve-year-olds can be super persistent. Maybe your “mature” daughter has been crying and screaming at you for a year that she’s the only one not allowed to date and that she hates how you still treat her like a baby!

That’s hard to take. But don’t let her bully you into saying “yes” to anything you’re not comfortable with. On the other hand, you shouldn’t automatically say “no” without digging deeper.

Be strategic.

You say she is “emotionally ready” and “pretty mature when it comes to situations like this.” Emotionally ready for what, exactly? What “situations” are we talking about?  What does your daughter mean when she talks about having a boyfriend? What does she believe is involved in being someone’s girlfriend? What does she think this kind of relationship means to the boy? Not sure? Ask her. Maybe not the easiest question for a 12-year-old to answer, but it’s important for her to think about it and share her thoughts with you. The way she thinks about it may determine how she behaves when you’re not around.

For example, does having a boyfriend mean that she and the boy text and snap chat and hang out together at lunch but never actually see each other outside of school? Or does it mean the two of them go to movies or the mall just the two of them… (public unsupervised time)? Does it mean they go to each other’s homes and hang out in each other’s bedrooms? (private unsupervised time)?

Lots to talk about. Her responses will give you insight into how “emotionally ready” and “mature” your daughter actually is when it comes to the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

P.S. You might want to check out Annie’s 10 Tips for Teaching Your Daughter Relationship Smarts.

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