When you tween asks to attend their first co-ed party, there are a lot of issues to consider. Before you in horror give a firm “no” response, why not try laying down some ground rules that might make it easier for you to say “yes, but on my terms”.
You should definitely get details before you let your 11 or 12-year-old venture out. Whose party is it? Who will be at the party? Will it be supervised and are the supervisors adults? When will it start and end? If you say yes after confirming these type of details, your tween understands that they need to prove trustworthiness by adhering to the rules you’ve dictated. Your tween’s future ability to attend more parties like this is dependent upon that proven trustworthiness.
When is it the “right” time? How can a parent get in the right mindset for this transition?
The “right time” varies by the child. Some are more mature and ready. You know your child best. For most parents, there’s never going to be a right time. A lot depends on the child and their maturity. Do you trust your child? If you say “no” they will find a way around you.
As far as preparing yourself, hopefully you have been having an open, trusting ongoing dialogue with your child for all the years leading up to this milestone. Communication is the linchpin and the best preparation for any of the transitions that are coming for your tween, especially into their teens. In this crazy, socially connected and networked world we live in, parents need to make sure they’re shutting down the electronic devices and really listening and talking to their children.
You can also talk to parents with older children and see what advice they have to give.
How can a parent best prepare his/her tween for this transition?
Communication. They won’t want to listen to you and stories about how it was when you went to your first party. “You don’t understand what things are like now.” I like to post-hypothetical questions. Start with the easy questions like, “How would you handle it if a boy came over to you and wanted to dance?” then eventually you can ask the “What if someone at the party is doing something you know is wrong, how would you handle the situation?” Role-playing works.
What should a parent do when their tween wants to start “dating” or have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Tweens and teens want to be able to start making their own decisions so it’s best if you give them choices and let them decide. The one I gave my daughter was, “You can have a date, but it has to be supervised.” After anger, tears, and every emotion in between, she gave into the parameters I had set down. Her first date was for pizza after school. I sat as far away as I could in pizza place. They were so cute.
Should your tween be allowed to have a boyfriend/girlfriend even if they don’t go on dates or hang out socially without supervision?
How would you stop them from saying they had a boyfriend/girlfriend? They spend hours at school together. The truth is as parents we can only do so much. We can talk to them, give them all of our words of wisdom, set down rules, and sit back and hope that some of those words have gotten through and that they have a good head on their shoulders.
And if nothing else, grab a glass of wine, relax, and let them go.