Perhaps the thought of all those sweet young couples slow dancing under paper streamers coaxes a nostalgic sigh or two. If you’re the parent of a child who has recently started middle school, get ready for a decidedly new dating scene.Yes, the prom as we knew it still exists, but even its drama pales in comparison to today’s boy-girl relationship issues.Kids today don’t plunge into dating without first going through the “talking to each other” phase.This means a boy and girl who feel an attraction spend time together, whether alone or in groups, then text and/or Snapchat in-between.The group eats dinner together, poses for pictures together and attends the dance together. ’” What to watch for: Officially, it’s OK for kids who aren’t part of a large friend group to go with just a date or with another couple, and it’s OK for kids to go “stag.” Unofficially, there are unwritten rules that your teen knows might discourage him from attending even if he wants to.Of course, kids who already have relationships — and even some still in the talking phase — will go with that special person, but still as part of a group. If that’s the case, the only thing you can do is offer support and perhaps plan a trip or outing for that night.“You never want the guy to think you’re going, ‘Oh, we’re dating, so I want you to meet them,’” Megan says.
“Maybe among the younger girls it’s more important to have a boyfriend, but as we’ve gotten older, it’s just not as important,” she says.That’s because most kids go in large groups and are couples in name only.Johnny may still ask Suzy to be his date, but only after the “group” has decided who will go with whom.Series The Opioid Epidemic—Think Your Family is Immune? No family is immune, and sadly, teens are one of the fastest growing segments of opioid abusers.This series will help you understand the problem and prevent your family from becoming a statistic.Parents should establish ground rules for texting members of the opposite sex and explain the importance of avoiding any form of “sexting.” Parents should also monitor their child’s text conversations and follow/friend them on any social media sites where they have accounts.Young teens have especially fragile egos, so negative peer feedback on social media can be especially damaging.Ed Parrish, a banker and father of four from Graham, has noticed that his 13-year-old son has started asking his older sister if her friend’s younger sister can join her on visits to the Parrish home. Sometimes, his son will go to the movies with guy friends and “meet up” with a group of girls from school, Parrish says.He feels comfortable with these early forays because “we’ve given him the talk about the need to respect young ladies and what we expect of him.” What to watch for: Smartphones and social media can lay traps for preteens and young teens.A fairly high bar stands between this phase and actual “dating,” wherein one member of the couple — usually the boy — officially asks the other out.Megan*, a senior at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, says only about 20 percent of these relationships result in an official couple.