Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"We need some biblical guidance on preteens 'going together.' Our 12-year-old likes a boy at her school and wants to 'go' with him. It seems 'going together' is really just a term her friends use for two people who like each other; our daughter isn't really interested in dating this boy. Is it all right to let our daughter do this?"

A. Actually if your child were back in biblical days, she could be betrothed by now! So take a deep breath and pray for God to empower you through this next phase of parenting. For many first-time parents of tweeners, it's surprising just how quickly the boy/girl stuff comes along. But relax and take courage; follow the instincts God has placed in you, and consider these ideas for setting up your family dating strategy.

Learn the lingo. As you mentioned, "going together" at 12 does not mean the same thing as it does at 15 or 16. At 12, it usually means that a boy and a girl like each other. They may not have declared that they like each other but they might e-mail and IM (instant message) each other on the Internet, look at each other and smile in the halls at school, leave notes in each others' lockers, and may actually even talk to each other on occasion! Ask your daughter what "going together" means in her school.

Our culture encourages kids to grow up too fast, particularly when it comes to sex and dating. Read some of the books listed below and work with your spouse to develop your family rules about dating. Bringing up a child in the way he should go (Prov. 22:6) means helping a child gradually increase responsibility for developing relationships with the opposite sex. Decide at what age your daughter can:

  • e-mail or IM a boy.

  • phone a boy or receive phone calls from one. Include time limits and A.M./P.M. cutoffs so these calls do not intrude on family time.

  • go out on group activities with boys and girls, with and without supervision.

  • have after-school "dates" in public places.

  • spend time at a boy's house or invite him to her house (with parental supervision).

  • go on an official date with defined parameters on transportation, activities, and curfew.

Talk about dating with your daughter. The company that makes American Girl dolls has some wonderful books for preteens. I recommend their Smart Girl's Guide to Boys (Pleasant Company) for good information on crushes, feelings, and boys. In addition, take a look at Talking to Your Kids About Sex (WaterBrook) by Mark Laaser. James Dobson's tape series, Preparing for Adolescence (GospelLight), has good information on the teen years you can listen to with your daughter and discuss together.

As your daughter reaches her 13th birthday, talk about abstinence (if you haven't already) and think about giving her a purity ring (see as a token of your support as she enters her dating years. Talk to your daughter's youth leaders to find out what kind of sexuality conversations they're planning to have with the young teenagers.

The most important message for your daughter in all of this is that she is a child God. Your goal is to help her manage the wild and crazy—and perfectly natural—feelings that will come along with puberty without losing her sense of who God created her to be. Use this time to start a pattern of open, honest conversations about dating, sex, and relationships. Keep praying for discernment and the