Ah, young love. It’s a beautiful thing…until it isn’t. If your 13-year-old son currently has a girlfriend, it’s time to get as many details as you can.
There are a few logical reasons for this, but it’s also a great opportunity to bond with your teenage kid. Let’s jump right in!
13-year-old in the 21 Centuary
As parents, we know this day is coming. At some point, our children will get bit by the love bug, and hormones are going to flood their systems.
Thirteen can seem a little early, but they’re exposed to many relationships every day and everywhere. The shows they watch, the books they read, the social media they consume, and even their friends.
However, when puberty hits and the biological chemicals come into play, hormones equal questionable decisions. It’s a fact of life. Your son stops thinking with his brain, and, well, you know the rest.
Thankfully, teenage dating in 2021 isn’t anything like it was even ten years ago. Nearly every interaction occurs online, which reduces the worry of sexual activity, STDs, and teenage pregnancy. Even so, online dating has its own issues that we need to cover.
Be THAT Parent
You want to be sure that he knows her in real life. You’ll be shocked to find that most dating in the teen years is long distance with people they’ve only ever met on social media.
This is a problem for many reasons, the least of which is that he can’t honestly know who is on the other end of that chat unless he’s met her or spoken via video chat.
It sounds crazy to us, as we spent our teen years chasing the kids at school or camp, but the virtual world is a booming place where connections are made daily. It’s become the norm to date online for teens and adults alike, but 13 isn’t the best age for this because they don’t yet have the executive functions to vet their online love interests. They take everything at face value, and that can be downright dangerous.
Talk It Out
If you’re racking your brain for ways to start a conversation, I’ve found that jokingly asking (in a non-demeaning way) what dating is like nowadays can be very enlightening.
His answer will probably involve a lot of trading pictures and chatting about their day over Discord and Snapchat.
If you don’t hear any mention of school or after-school activities, ask where he knows her from. Listen to what he’s saying and what he’s not saying. You can learn a lot from both.
If He Knows Her In Real Life
If you’ve raised yourself a fine young gentleman, I’m sure he’s made an excellent choice, but it’s always a good idea to see how he feels about the situation and the girl.
Pay close attention to how he talks about her. If he’s focused solely on her looks, gently guide him toward her other unique assets, such as how she treats people and her intelligence. These little life lessons don’t have to be overt but try to plant the seed now so that he carries it with him into adulthood.
In addition, some thirteen-year-old middle school girls can be absolutely vicious, mainly to each other, and you want to observe your son to see if he makes any drastic changes in how he acts or looks. So long as he is happy and healthy, there’s no need to worry.
However, if you notice that he seems more withdrawn, if his grades suddenly drop, or if that twinkle in his eye is fading, it’s time to push the issue and ask what’s up.
I say this because 13-year-olds often think they need to change themselves so that other people will like them. It’s a considerable self-image struggle, and you want to watch for any signs that your son is dealing with this. Please don’t write it off. If your alarm bells are ringing, trust your instincts.
If He Doesn’t Know Her In Real Life
This is where it gets tricky. Teenagers truly think they know everything. You must sit down and talk about the dangers of chatting with strangers on the internet. Hopefully, you’ve had this talk with him many times before. If not, you need to have it now.
It can be uncomfortable confronting your kid about this, but it’s better than the alternative of turning a blind eye and having something go horribly wrong. It’s not beyond the realm of acceptability to ask to meet her on FaceTime or Zoom and verify she is who she says she is.
While this may seem intrusive, it’s one of the few times it’s wholly acceptable to insert yourself in his relationship business. If he refuses, make sure he understands this is non-negotiable.
13-Year-Old Online Dating
Regardless of how they’re dating, there are a few things you need to talk to your son about. Like I mentioned earlier, the logic goes out the window, and they forget that some decisions have long-lasting ramifications.
Remind him that anything and everything posted to the internet is permanent, even a snap on Snapchat or a DM on Instagram.
If he knows her from school, they’re probably still talking incessantly on one of the many chat apps available, and they both need to be careful about what kind of pictures and messages they’re sending to each other.
It can be easy to try to deny your child is that type of kid, but trust me, at this age, they’re all about the pics. Stress the importance of keeping every photograph PG. He shouldn’t be sending nude pictures, and he shouldn’t be asking for them.
Similarly, she shouldn’t be either. This is not a double standard. Respect is the name of the game, and that starts with making sure your son understands peer pressure isn’t acceptable, and underage nudity is absolutely not okay.
How to Support Him
Now that we’ve gone over all the warnings, it’s time to put a positive spin on things. First loves and crushes are some of the sweetest things on Earth.
If you’re comfortable with the situation and you’ve made sure it’s all legitimate, be his wingman (the PG kind)! If he’s asked her to the school dance, help him pick out an outfit and flowers, then offer to chauffeur.
Assure him you won’t embarrass him. If she lives out of state, offer to help him send her cookies or something else sweet on her birthday.
These little gestures add up, and let’s be honest; a teenage boy needs all the help he can get when it comes to wooing his chosen partner. What he learns now is what he’ll implement later. You have a very small window to guide him in this; take advantage of it!
Check In Frequently
Teenage love is fickle and fleeting, and very few relationships last any amount of time. This doesn’t make them less important, but it does mean that at some point he’s going to get his teenage heart broken, and this can be debilitating to his self-esteem.
Don’t brush it off and tell him to suck it up. Far too many people expect boys to be stoic in these situations while allowing girls the freedom to be dramatic. Your son needs a safe place to express his pain and disappointment to have a healthy mental and emotional mindset moving forward.
These teenage years are crucial to shaping his adult interactions, and for far too long, we as a society have put pressure on boys to be unaffected. Somehow, people also act as if it’s acceptable for boys to talk down about the people who break up with them.
This culture needs to stop, and the only way that is going to happen is one teenager at a time. As a parent, it’s your job to instill these values in your kids. Calling her names and telling everyone her secrets is bullying.
Make sure he understands that. It’s also unacceptable for her to do the same. Again, the double standards need to phase out. If he’s being bullied, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
It’s also essential, especially if they see each other face to face often, to have the talk with him. You know the one I mean. Abstinence education is entirely ineffective, but knowledge is power.
I tell my kids to wait until they’re truly ready and not to feel pressured into doing anything just because their friends are. Sex is an amazing experience, but they should wait for someone that makes them laugh so hard their cheeks hurt and be at least 16 years old (if not A LOT older).
Those are the two caveats that I repeatedly instill any time the subject comes up. 13-year-old boys are hormone-fueled creatures that are curious and willing to do a lot of things to seem older and “cool” to their friends.
If you teach your son to respect a no, and similarly, to say no, he’ll be a step ahead of the game. The right person is worth the wait!
As always, thank you so much for looking out for your son and being a good parent. It’s not easy to watch them grow up, and it can be tempting to try to control every situation, but some lessons have to be learned on their own.
Just be as supportive as possible and instill positive values from the get-go, and he’ll be just fine.