Interesting perspective from a 12 year old boy. “Most of my guy friends are not interested in girls and don’t even notice them, but I’m more than interested, I think about girls all the time.”
The late pre-teen years and the early teen years are full of physical changes. The physical changes are kind of obvious but the trends of our social world that accompany the physical changes are not always as obvious. One of the trends includes moving from same-sex friendships to opposite-sex relationships.
From a parental perspective, it’s wise to understand how this works and then look for opportunities to explain it to your child. Read through these steps and share your thoughts. Have you personally experienced this transition with your own son or daughter?
- In the early elementary school years it’s most common for boys and girls to have their own same-sex friendships. Why? Because girls are “gross” to the boys and boys are “stupid” to the girls.
- During the late elementary school years and the early middle school years the distance between the groups gets shorter. The groups still exist, there just not as exclusive. Opposite sex interest is beginning to occur. The common teasing transitions from mean teasing to attention teasing, which is actually a young person’s expression of interest during this stage.
- By late middle school and definitely in early high school the sexual segregation lessens even more. Actually in our current culture, it’s usually non-existent by this point. Now the boys and girls are talking, texting, and hanging together in the lunch room, during school extra-curricular activities, at the neighborhood pool, etc. At this point there’s already some “boyfriend/girlfriend” labeling and even some boy/girl physical stuff going on. A group still exists, it’s just now a boy/girl group segregated by social labels rather than the sex of the participants (popular kids, tech heads, athletes, etc.).
- In high school the pairing off begins and gets pretty intense. High school is full of couples and the focus is prominently “official” relationships and physical interactions.
Since we know this progression is pretty natural, what’s the parent’s role before and during the progression? Yup, you guessed it! Communication, intentional involvement, and maintaining your role as the parent. During these developmental stages your son or daughter is processing through their own personal sexual identity. In the early years, all the boys and girls look pretty much the same from the waist up and the thighs down. Then, some crazy body stuff starts to happen and all of a sudden the generic body definitely becomes a male or a female body.
The important thing for parents to understand is that:
- It’s going to happen, so take the lead and participate in the progression process.
- There’s a lot more developing than just the physical body, so add the emotional, spiritual, and social developmental components to your conversations.
- Your teen will not come running to you begging you to talk to them about all of this “growing up” stuff. Do it anyways!
Heads up parents, it’s not necessarily a real fun parenting stage, and it’s also not easy, fast, or consistent. But you can do it! Don’t let the current culture raise your teen son or daughter. Don’t assume the media or their peers will get them through this stage, and definitely don’t assume they have it all figured out –even if they’re playing it cool.