Advice for a twelve-year-old girl thinking about dating

epic1999 asks: I’m 12 and I met this boy who is 13, nearly 14. We get on really well and he knows every thing about me and I know every thing about him. I have never felt like this before about any boy. Because he is older than me he asks me questions and I feel ok answering them. But my only worry is that he will want something from me and I will get hurt in the end. I have talked to all the family members I can trust, but they say that I’m too young to be in a relationship. So I just need a bit of advice.

Hi epic1999 –

I have many pet peeves – squirrels, cats, the sound of skateboards – but one of the big ones is the word “relationship.”  It’s SO vague!  Hey look, you and I are in a Relationship – because I’m writing you an answer to the question you asked me.  You’re in a Relationship with the computer you’re reading this on.  You’re in a Relationship with the chair you’re sitting on as you read this!  And of course you’re in a Relationship with every family member, friend, schoolmate, neighbor… in the end, you’re in a Relationship with everyone and everything there is!


So when your caring family members say that you’re too young to be in a relationship, what you’re really talking about is dating, romance, and (to some degree or another) sex!  Yes, even if that’s just holding hands or kissing on the cheek.  And that’s what is scary to you and to them.


I have lots of postings on the AskShirelle website about when it’s okay to start dating, and what teens should do when and how much, and I recommend them all to you (of course I do – I think I’m always right!!).


But you’re in a very special situation, epic1999.  Because you already have a relationship, and a fantastic one it seems, with this boy.  You love him and he loves you, and that’s a wonderful thing.  The problem teenagers have is that everyone in the world – from their family to their school or church to their friends – has an opinion on what exactly people who love each other should be doing.  And you’re feeling tons of pressure about that.  And you’re very understandably scared.


So I have two pieces of advice.  First, I want you to get extremely clear about what is and isn’t okay for you with this boy.  If you were to go out with him, would you want him to hold your hand?  Would you want him to kiss you?  And if he wanted to do more than you did, would you be comfortable telling him to stop?  (I have a GREAT piece on what to do when your date wants more than you do – definitely read that one: it’s a true story about me, believe it or not!)


And when you have come up with that information, talk with him about it.  If he wanted to go out with you, would he be okay with the fact that he probably has friends who are doing more with their girlfriends than he is with you?  If so, then I’d want you to talk with your family about what you said to him and he said to you.  And ONLY then, if they’re okay with it, would you two actually go out.


Would this guarantee that you would never be hurt in this romance?  Of course not.  The sad and happy truth is that the vast majority of dating relationships don’t last.  Sad because it’s always disappointing or hurtful or heartbreaking when that happens.  And happy because then you’re each free to find someone else who’s better for you.


But my second piece of advice is — be ready for life to change.  You may go out with this boy and be happy holding hands, and then suddenly one day you feel like you want to marry him and have kids together… but you’re still not quite thirteen!  What do you do?  Or he’s content with a goodnight kiss, but suddenly he’s saying he wants to sneak into your bedroom window at midnight like Romeo or Edward Cullen!  What do you do then?


Life changes, feelings change, and never is this truer than in your teenage years.  So if you do date this boy, use your family, your friends, and yes use me!  Ask those you trust about how to deal with all the changing feelings you have.


But I’ll warn you in advance that every answer I give you will tell you two things to keep paramount in your mind:  Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and don’t let anyone push you to do anything you don’t feel like doing; but at the same time, Be Kind.  If you and he can both keep to those two rules, I think it’ll all be okay.  Whether you stay friends or date, whether you stay together or break up… it’s THOSE rules that will matter most.


Best of luck to you, epic1999.  And just remember, when anyone tells you what they think about how one has to show love, remember:  a lick on the nose has worked for us dogs for millennia!!







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