Q: My 5th grader, age 11, is "going out" with a girl in his grade. They say "hi" to each other at lunch. She asked him out to start with and he said yes — this is how they got to the "hi" part. What is the proper thing to do when it comes to this age and dating? Is it appropriate for a group of boys and girls to go to the movies alone? I'm thinking of having a boy/girl "school's out" party at the house, with parents welcome to stay.
A: Many school-aged children are interested in the opposite sex but won't admit it. Girls are usually a couple of years ahead of boys in this regard, but in your son's case, he seems to be open about his feelings.
The community usually dictates the age parents allow "dating." Most often, one-on-one dating occurs later in high school. Before then, kids hang out in groups — with a parent present — at house parties, movies, and sports events.
Both boys and girls feel more comfortable and protected if they understand the rules about opposite-sex friendships. It is important to speak to other parents concerning their children's social engagements so that all agree about appropriate activities and chaperones. Most school-age romances do not outlast graduation (if that), but the experience of having friendships and even crushes is a very important step in growing up.