It really annoys me when people ask my small children, even my four and five year-olds (oops, six year-old) if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Why do they do this? Really. I know older, grandparent types think it's a cute thing to ask them and tease them about growing up, etc.. The problem, which I doubt many grandparent types realize, is that in the world in which my children are maturing and growing, many children at seven, eight and nine years old have "girlfriends" or "boyfriends".
It seems like every year, kids at younger and younger ages begin to talk about the opposite sex as more than friends. What happened to the day of "cooties" and "boys are gross!"? I have become well known, not only with my children but with their friends as well, as the authority on the fact that they are too young for that boy/girl nonsense.
As my two older kids begin to approach that age, the age of hormones and finding some interest in the opposite sex, I have found that it is now important to explain better to my children why I feel that ten year-olds don't need to worry about boyfriends and girlfriends. I was inspired the other day, while driving with my children, with (in my opinion) a good explanation as to why girlfriends and boyfriends are not something God would want them dealing with right now. Here is my explanation to my kids. Maybe it will help some of you, maybe you have better thoughts you can share with us.
I discussed with my children God's view of marriage, that it is forever. We talked about friendships. I asked if they could have a friend now that would still be their friend in 5, 8, 10 or 20 years and they agreed that they could. We talked about how they could be friends with Sally now (names changed to protect the innocent) and in 5 years could meet Sandy and become friends with her. Does that mean that Sally is no longer a friend, of course not. In another 15 years they could meet Sami and become friends. We discussed that, although perhaps things would happen causing Sally to move away or change interests and they may over time lose touch and not be friends, they still COULD be friends even if new friends came along.
Then we discussed boyfriends. If you have a boyfriend named Bob now, is it likely that in 15 years you are really going to marry Bob? No, so in order for you to get a new boyfriend, the relationship with Bob has to end. So, I explained, if you have boyfriends or girlfriends now, you are entering into a relationship planning for it to end. God doesn't want us starting relationships planning to end them. We discussed that some day they would find their future spouse and if they'd had 10 "boyfriends" in elementary school and junior high, then that is 10 relationships that they started, knowing for sure they were going to end. I told them that it was like practising for divorce.
I don't yet know what we will do when they are 16 and 17. I don't feel pressed to make that decision now, but I want my kids to understand that this "harmless" flirtation with relationships isn't harmless. It starts them down a path of looking at relationships as disposable, not lifelong. I want my kids to know that, although things change and friends move on, you should never begin a relationship with the end in mind.