12 Year Old Having Boyfriends, and Kids Family Looks Bad

Updated on December 23, 2016
J.M. asks from Manasquan, NJ
17 answers

ok, long story. I'm really hoping to hear from experienced moms who have been here. daughter just turned 12, is in 6th grade. she just got Instagram a month ago, and was pretty much the last one to get it. I have full access and she is completely fine with that. we live in a small town so she has been with the same 80-100 kids in her grade since kindergarten. we now are funneling into a regional school that has 4 different towns, from 6 schools, so its a lot of new kids. it seems that everyone has boyfriends and girlfriends the minute they get to middle school. most don't actually go anywhere, they just text and see each other at a dance like once a month at most. this is something I don't necessarily agree with per se, but I think it has opened up so much communication, that I actually am ok with the idea of it as it stands now. my issue is I happened to look up the last name in facebook, and the father came right up. first I see no mother at all. there are 6 children and this boy is the youngest. he has 3 older brothers so I'm just picturing lack of supervision and exposure to older things. the father looks awful, like a drinker, banged up teeth, inappropriate facebook memes shared. they live in the worst town of the 4. and the final thing is his name is on mugshots.com for some type of drug charge 3 years ago!!! as a mother of 3 girls, if you could take every scenario of where I wouldn't want my kid to hang out, this would be it. BUT we are talking about 11-12 year olds who probably wont like each other next month anyway. and my daughter knows that she would never be allowed at her "BF's house" until she is way older. I mean, the kid is totally fine, very silly in the texts, its mostly just emojis. I feel bad that I'm judging him because right at this moment, he is just a kid not doing anything wrong. so my question is do I just let this go, since its not going anywhere and she is completely supervised? they probably wont even talk in a few weeks?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the responses. I'm going to just let it go for now. He is just a kid at this point and seems completely age appropriate in the way they talk. And I do feel bad as its not his fault of the circumstances. I guess with Google and Facebook, it makes it so easy to find everything about people. When j was a kid, you had no idea about these things.

As far as my comments, we have drug charges, several pictures of him drinking, influence of older 3 brothers with very little parental supervision(ref to no mother seen), siblings cursing in fb videos, inappropriate postings are not things our family does. banged up teeth, very low income area are in itself not in issue. its putting everything in totality. for all I know, he could be using meth causing the teeth to be rotting away. its just so so so bad. but then I do feel so so bad that at 11/12 this is what some kids life is like, and I'm judging him. I really feel so bad for him.

I know a few are freaked out by "allowing" dating(but its only texthing), but I don't see how I could forbid two 6th graders from saying they like each other. I also don't believe she would go through the next 4 years never liking anyone. She has been very open with me about what kids are doing what. And we have discussed what I expect at this age. I have already said a few things about drama, where she did go and do what I suggested on her own when it happened. I'm hoping I can use this time to reinforce our values with harmless 12 year old dating, when she is completely under my control.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would let it go as long as she isn't going anywhere unsupervised. 6th grade "relationships" are most often in name only and very short lasting.

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answers from Washington DC on

i wasn't allowed to date until I was 16. Even then it was tough.

I would tell her that it's great she has boys who are friends, but he's not a boyfriend and she can't date until she's 16.

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answers from Boston on

I understand what you mean about kids "dating" who don't actually go anywhere. It's relatively harmless, and there's not much you can do about it anyway because kids will say stuff like "I'm going out with John" when they're at school. As long as you know where she is and can guarantee that she's not unsupervised, and as long as you are checking her phone/computer all the time (making absolutely sure you are up on all the latest apps including the hidden ones), you're doing the right thing.

I'm a little concerned about some of your comments about the father of the boy - I think you have every right to be concerned about inappropriate FB posts and a prior criminal record. But after that, I think it's very judgmental to assume that the mother's absence on FB implies anything. And commenting on the man's teeth? And he "looks like a drinker" and "banged up teeth"? Drinkers look like everyone else, people with great teeth can be horrible abusers, and you should re-think your assumptions that you can just tell who's a bad guy and who isn't. And branding everyone for being in the "worst down of the 4"? I think you're going to miss a lot of risk factors by focusing on stuff like that! Some of the most well-dressed people with good dental insurance are drug users, alcoholics, and perverts. And older siblings can mean exposure to things you'd rather not think about, but can also mean that parents have seen all the tricks and deceptions already, and a younger child may have good role models and mentors in his siblings too!

Don't teach your daughter to judge people's "safety" by how they dress or how good their genetics or dentists are. She shouldn't be in any homes at all unless you personally know the parents and have personally spoken to them that they will be home and regularly checking in on any party or get-together. We had kids here all the time, and my son had some dates over - I walked in regularly with snacks and to pick up cups/plates (even though the kids are expected to clean up, I made it my excuse to just walk in unannounced). I personally called the parents I didn't know to introduce myself and inform them that I would be vigilant and present. I never trusted the kids' word for things - even a well-intentioned kid who thought for sure that there would be parents present often didn't get the full story from the "host" child. And any party was at risk if word got out (which it did through social media) and the party-crashers showed up. Even the terrific kids didn't know how to handle that.

Also, be aware that this is the age when "good kids" start doing things like sharing their ADD meds or raiding their parents' medicine cabinets - they have no idea that "one pill" can have consequences, and they aren't terribly skilled at battling peer pressure. Surveys show that this is NOT something that first occurs when they are 16 or more, but very much at 10/11/12 years of age. Be sure that you start these conversations now - it sounds like you have opened up some great communication with her already, and that's a great start!

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answers from Honolulu on

Now is the best time to be developing certain characteristics in your daughter. Don't focus on this boy in particular. Don't focus on any boy or any person.

Instead, seek to develop the traits that will benefit your daughter in the long run. She needs:

1. The ability to be a good friend: loyal, trustworthy, reliable, kind, polite, helpful
2. The ability to assess another person on his or her character, not race/background/etc
3. The ability to be strong and to say "no" when confronted with danger (drinking, etc)
4. The ability to defend her friends and to step up and stand beside the bullied kids
5. The ability to know her own standards (which you have taught her)
6. The ability to have something to rely on (religion, family values, a foundation)
7. The ability to know that you are willing to listen, to help her figure out the world

There will ALWAYS be that friend, that acquaintance, that colleague, that roommate, that employer, that co-worker, whose back story involves sadness, neglect, crime, something we could never imagine or picture, severe illness, riches beyond description, fame, homelessness, physical differences or disabilities, athletic success...everyone's different, and your child will encounter them all,

The only thing that will carry her through is: what kind of person is she? Is she able to discern that this situation is potentially dangerous and she should leave? Is she able to discern that this friend, although very different, has the qualities that make him or her a real friend and a decent human being? Is she able to discern that this person or situation is healthy or harmful?

Focus on providing your daughter a very solid foundation. It might be based on your spiritual beliefs, or your moral values, or your idea of right and wrong. Don't characterize anyone on their parents' issues, or their heritage. Provide your daughter NOW with her guidelines (no dating until X age, rules for dating, rules for internet and phones, what to be wary of, how to judge character, the fact that she can always talk to you without judgment, consequences for violating curfew, the effects of breaking the rules (legal, family trust, privileges, the fact that she is even now at this young age establishing her credibility and accountability). Be firm, be consistent, be fair, and be honest. Focus on your daughter rather than the big world - both ugly and beautiful - that she's going to encounter.

And part of that is following the rules yourself. Instagram states that users must be 13. It doesn't matter if your daughter is the last human on earth to have it. You need to show her that rules are to be followed. She needs to see the Instagram policies and know that you respect them. When you open the door to social media, you're not only allowing your child to access it, you're basically allowing your child to travel on a 6 lane highway, and the traffic can flow both ways. It's not just that your child can use Instagram, it's that the entire Instagram and social media world can now access your child.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I would trust your gut, and to me, I feel like your gut is telling you "he's just a kid" and the "relationship is immature and not going anywhere".

I work in middle school. This is very appropriate for this age group. It sounds developmentally on target. It is just fun and excitement for them to have at school, amongst their peers. They aren't going on dates, they aren't ever alone together and most likely don't want to be. The texting makes it feel new, but it's no different than the the "who likes who" nonsense, passing notes, and "going together" we all experienced at that age.

I wouldn't worry about the family background at this point. They are young and innocent. You seem very vigilant. I don't think you're going to miss anything if it progresses beyond what is developmentally age-appropriate (like trying to see each other outside of school functions). You can set the boundaries if you need. For now just let her enjoy her crush.

They'll probably break up by the time you read these answers.

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answers from Washington DC on

it doesn't sound as if he's actually a boyfriend, more of a school and social media buddy. and that's not the end of the world.
my boys had 'girlfriends' from kindergarten on. it was all very sweet and nothing untoward.
i don't blame you for checking it out, and for being a little horrified. i'd probably be the same. but rein it in- there's actually nothing going on at this point other than, as you say, some goofy texts and friendship. and it's actually lovely that your daughter is open to friendships across the board, isn't it?
you're already overseeing the social media, you're not going to let her go to his house or anywhere else unsupervised, so i think you're on this exactly as you should be.
clamping down any further will almost certainly have the opposite of the desired effect.

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answers from Washington DC on

My daughter is 13 and fortunately, she doesn't have time for a boyfriend. She's a competitive dancer, in STEM, and babysits...plus she has family time and responsibilities. Anyway, most of the kids that age that I see date might hold hands at lunch, but mostly they just talk at school and that's it. They might go see a movie, but that's a maybe.

His family might suck, but he sounds like he is okay...and you're right, this will pass in a month. I would talk to your daughter about the choices she is making now and how the will impact her future, just so she knows.

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answers from San Francisco on

Don't judge this kid negatively. It's not his fault his family is sketchy. Do the same thing you would do with any boyfriend your daughter had.

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answers from St. Louis on

Sorry but if you are okay with a 12 year old having a boyfriend your family doesn't look so good either. Sorry but dating, even fake dating, at 12 is a great way to say I would love to be a young grandma.

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answers from Norfolk on

Just - SO - no.
My son watched some of his friends do this and it's all friendly for a few days - but once they break up - the spite lasts forever.
When our son got tired of hearing about all the resulting whining from his friends break ups, he's like 'You do this for FUN? Why bother? If I have to hear about Heather one more time you can go find someone else to complain to.'.
Our son wasn't allowed to date till he turned 16.
And once he turned 16 he still didn't want to.
He has plenty of friends both boys and girls and we're happy if he saves the dating for college.
And we're quite fortunate that he's never wanted to deal with social media and he's not concerned with 'what everyone else is doing'.
Having friends at 11/12 is fine - having boyfriends/girlfriends isn't - they aren't mature enough to deal with it.
If she's got time for this then she's got too much free time on her hands.
Sign her up for taekwondo and run her ragged.
It's always a good strategy for the teenage years.

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answers from Portland on

I would trust your gut.

The few times my kids have made friends and I've met the parents and am taken aback, for whatever reason, those friendships usually turn out poorly. Values, etc. don't always match up and the kids figure it out on their own. I've learned to just not encourage those friendships.

If you don't want your daughter dating - I'd just say you're ok with her being friends with the boy, but you aren't ok with her dating.

Middle school romances can be pretty intense. My son's buddy has been dating a girl since Sept. He spends every minute with her at school that he can. Before school, lunch, after school waiting for the bus .. and they meet up places where other kids are, and go off. They are not going on dates, but doesn't matter. They do school projects together, etc. For me personally, it's quite intense for 13.

My son dated a girl for all of 5 minutes - so I know what you mean. In his case, his friend set him up. He just explained to the girl that he's more comfortable being pals. He was kind. My boys have friends that are girls and that works out well.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

We're going through the same thing, sort of. Our town has a major income break. There are the below poverty level areas and the high middle income to high income areas. There's hardly any middle income in our town. I wouldn't think a boy from a poor neighborhood was any worse than a kid from a mansion on 10 acres. I actually would think the rich one was probably one of those that felt the rules didn't apply to them and that wouldn't be what I'd want my girl to be around.

He could be very different than them, much better or he could be worse. Teach your child she is of worth and her life has meaning. Keeping them socially sequestered until they're 16 then expecting them to be perfect at dating isn't great either. They should have the skills they need to enter into that time frame of their life.

Our girl is very excited. The boy she likes asked her "out" a few weeks ago. She's 13.

I am going to say boy and man. I don't mean anything by that. She can like a girl if she wants. I don't care. But she likes boys for now so I'm saying boy/man.

So now they're "dating"...they don't even know where the other one lives, they don't see each other off the school grounds at all. So it's more like playing at boyfriend and girlfriend. Not really dating. I don't even know if they'll talk on the phone in person...right? Just messaging.

They will sit together at lunch if they have the same lunch period. They'll chat on messenger for as long as we let them have their phones after school. They'll talk about school, friends, and more. They still won't see each other outside of school unless they get the parents to allow it and assist them going someplace.

I told my girl she can be around her "boyfriend" at school but they are to never be alone, she must always be with friends when they're together. I mean really, other than the bathroom where do students go without being within some teacher's line of sight? It's not like they can go into an empty classroom and lock the doors. They are pretty much herded here and there in masses.

And you're right, it's often one of those things where the next week they will like someone else. There are what, like maybe 2 or 3 couples that meet in middle school that are still together in high school or afterwards? I do know a couple that met in 6th grade that were together and married right after high school. Both went to college, got degrees, and have been married 30+ years, have grand kids now. But that is very much not the norm.

So they call it dating. Our girl knows she is NEVER going to be able to go alone with a boy in a private situation, like in a car to a drive in or to the park for a picnic, until she's older and at least 16.

My thoughts on this "Dating" ideal is that that it's preparing her for the eventuality where she will be alone with a boy or even someday a man.


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answers from Santa Fe on

My son is 12 and he does like a girl at school. I just tell him, no, he is too young for a girlfriend. Now is the time to focus on school and friends. So, he considers her and 2 other boys his 3 best friends. The 4 of them hang out at middle school together. Her parents say the same thing to her. I think this is the way to go at age 12. We all think it would never happen but there ARE 12 year olds that pressure other 12 year olds for sex or oral sex. You never would know bc they would never let an adult know. It could be the nicest boy. You have to be aware of these things. My advice is to tell her no boyfriends till she is older but she can be friends with him.



answers from Philadelphia on

I watched this video with my 13 yo eighth grader. It resonated with her...

If you don't want to click on the link, go to YouTube and search for "what every eighth grade girl needs to hear"




answers from Anchorage on

My son is 13, he is not allowed to date until he is older, point blank. He knows the rules already. That said, you have already allowed this so you are in a bit more of a pickle, it would be unfair for you to be fine with her dating one moment and then to change your mind the next. One thing I would not do is hold this boys family against him, but I would also be talking to my daughter about things like drugs, sex, and peer pressure.



answers from Phoenix on

I think its crazy...all this "dating" in 6th grade and middle school. It really is just silly stuff although some kids get into some kissing etc. I would tell your kid that there's no "dating" i.e. going places with him except for school functions. That ought to keep them out of trouble. If they text, I would monitor your dd's accounts just to make sure there isn't anything unacceptable going on. Some kids at my dd's middle school got suspended for nude "sexting"...so sometimes, social media can lead to more problems than in person stuff.


answers from New York on

I totally get what and where you are coming from, it's rough being the parent!
The fact of the matter is we judge, so try not to beat yourself up too bad about it & see it for what it is and adjust. If it makes you feel any better after I read your post I totally judged you for allowing your 12 year old daughter to have a phone w/social media, apps the whole nine, yikes! My oldest is a boy, 13 & he's the weird kid with no phone but I don't care, I'm not ready, I don't want the temptation, the addiction or the record of his life out there for all to see...and by judging you I feel better about my choices as a parent, lol!

I say forget about the kid. I mean keep up with the watch dog stuff online cuz that's necessary but your focus should be that your daughter know that 'boyfriends' are what? If she was mine that would be, for the end of High School and all through College, meet as many wonderful guys as she can, but not until then, now it's time to learn how to be friends with boys, etc, etc. And I hope she got a real run down on what's allowed and what's not allowed on the phone: NO PICTURES!

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