Up until now, your child's probably had lots of friends, both boys and girls. But as she reaches the age of 9 or 10, she may begin to prefer friends of the same gender and see the opposite sex as, well, different. The same child who climbed trees with the neighborhood boys just last year is now giggling with her girlfriends about who's the cutest guy in the class. You might even wonder, Is this normal? Is she old enough to like boys?
The answer to both questions is yes. And while your child's not ready to start dating, this is the age where she'll develop the tools she needs to build healthy, loving relationships in the future.
You'll play a major role in helping your child learn to relate to the opposite sex. Start by taking her feelings seriously. Listen to the way your child talks about the opposite sex and encourage her to use respectful language.
Talk about the difference between real love and love that is superficial and self-seeking. Sit down together and look up 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 and Galatians 5:22-23. Point out that true love chooses to be patient, kind, secure, humble, considerate, persistent, good, gentle, self-controlled. As she develops friendships?both male and female?help her look for these character traits in others. As she discovers what makes a good friend, she'll also be learning what makes a good mate.
At this age, kids become almost desperate for information about the opposite sex. Girls often look to teen magazines for answers to their questions, while boys sometimes turn to pornography. Point out that neither resource offers any solid answers or lasting solutions. Instead, provide books and magazines that are based on Scriptural principles (Focus on the Family offers a number of magazines for young people. Call 1-800-AFAMILY for information.).
While it may be hard to believe that your child is already thinking about the opposite sex, don't worry. With your help and guidance, these early signs of maturity can be the beginning of a lifetime of healthy, godly relationships.
Writer, youth worker and mother of two
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