The objective of this article is to point out the stresses on early adolescents related to the opposite sex in an effort to provide a cushioning for them from their caregivers.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Stresses in Early Boy-Girl Relationships
Summary: During early adolescence, boys and girls are assailed by many inner pressures.
Parents should try to understand what is going on inside their children, listen to their triumphs, and troubles, and, keeping communications as open as possible, remind the children of the parent’s love for them and their interest while also reminding the children that the parents have faith that the difficulties, whatever they are, will pass.
Some years in some areas there are very social “in” groups: fifth graders have boy-girl parties, exchange gifts, and go to the movies together. Such was my own growing up. The next year, there may be no such groups. Usually the girls are more ready for mixed social groups than the boys; sometimes it is the others of the girls who initiate such social occasions. For some children it is fun, though the boy-girl twosomes usually do not last very long. For those who are not ready and tus, feel left out, is is pure misery.
The truth is that in early adolescence, most children have little need for children of the opposite sex. While some boy-girl relationships are part of the general experimentation appropriate to early adolescence, the real work of severing extremely close ties to parents and getting ready to form one’s closest ties with peers is best achieved with children of the same sex. Emotional closeness with members of the opposite sex is part of later adolescence. On the other hand, social pressures often force an early connection with the opposite sex, perhaps before the child is physically or physically ready.
Boy-girl explorations may represent the early adolescents’ inner drive for adventure. Denied adventure in many other areas, they may seek it this way or through running away–if only for a few hours. They may also seek adventure by testing adult limits, or by the vicarious experiences of science fiction, romantic novels, and media presentations about celebrities, crime and cults. It is difficult to meet this need for adventure constructively, but the success of such wholesome activities as those offered in the community, camping, and work-related programs offer some opportunities.
So parents should stay available and help their children to engage in activities where they can be successful, find an identity through that success, and stay occupied with peers who come from families of similar values. Church is often a good place to find activities with a moral base and constructive goals. Books such as Seven Habits of Successful families by Steven Covey, and In the Shelter of Each Other by Mary Pipher are useful reading for parents as children enter this age bracket.