Tween Dating: What to Worry and Not Worry About

How Common It Is to Find a 12 Year Old Dating Seriously

boy and girl studying
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Regarding seriousness, tween romances seem to be similar to teen and adult relationships in a number of ways. For one, tween relationships are usually not kept secret. Most 12-year-olds who were dating said that they actively told others about their relationship. In addition, the majority of the dating tweens had met one another's parents. This may be scary to agree to, but it's important to play along with some exceptions so that your daughter feels you support them.

If there are certain aspects of the person they are dating that you don't like, keep it to yourself. Try to focus on finding out how the boy or girl treats your tween first. Your child won't be as open about that if you demonize who they are dating.

Children Dating Trends

Some tween romances have staying power. One study found that 20% of 12 to 14-year-olds had had a relationship that lasted at least 11 months. Given how fast tweens's lives are changing, 11 months is certainly a significant period of time. That said, though, relationships among tweens are likely to be more superficial than later relationships. Tweens tend to pick their boyfriend or girlfriend based on the person's looks, clothes and/or social status. Teens, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on internal traits and common interests when picking a partner, just as adults do.

Children Dating: Unexpected but Normal

All in all, your tween is not alone in having a long-lasting, serious romantic relationship.

Whether children dating is healthy or unhealthy, however, is still debated by social scientists. Therefore, it's up to you to determine what you're comfortable with for your child and to set up dating ground rules, regardless of what other kids may or may not be doing.

Supporting Your Tween When They Start Dating

Regardless of whether or not your approve, your child will be exposed to dating by the age of 12.

Try to be the voice of reason rather than that of criticism. They may be less apt to talk to you about their feelings, or ask for advice if you exercise too much judgment about dating in general, or about their readiness to date. It's important that tweens feel empowered with information that helps them set boundaries, expectations, and limits on themselves and the person they are dating. Stay involved by sharing your first dating experiences, and role play if your tween feels up to it. It's important that they build confidence about dating in these early years so that they are not swayed by misinformation. Also be sure they have contingency plans should the date not go as planned. By partnering with your tween when they start dating, you will keep the lines of communication open from their first love to their last.


Collins, W. Andrew. More than Myth: The Developmental Significance of Romantic Relationships During Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence. 2003. 13(1): 1-24.

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