Why So Young?
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
Our children are encouraged by the public school system to begin dating at a very early age. Dances and other activities get students paired off with others, and seem to push them into intimate relationships before they are ready for them. What counsel do you have for parents who are concerned about the problems these activities may cause our children? —Denise, Durham, North Carolina
Ours is an over-stimulated culture that pushes children to explore the transitions to adolescence in ways that are often less than appropriate for their present and future wellbeing. In their attempt to help pre-teens and teens explore the early stirrings of sexual attraction, school systems integrate certain activities that create outlets for the exploration of these attractions.
We offer two points on this issue for your consideration: (1) Parents have the option to choose where to send their children to school. (2) Parents can determine in which activities their children may or may not participate.
On the first issue we believe that children are a gift from God. The Bible states: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Ps. 127:3). Because this is so, parents should do all they can to give their children the best opportunities possible. This may include sending their children to church school, where the values taught are those that parents believe. This environment makes it easier to allow children to participate in social activities.
We are the first to agree that it is rather expensive to send children to church school. However, we challenge you to put God to the test, since He has promised to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19). Allow God to work miracles for you and your children, and in the process exercise your muscle of faith.
On the second issue, we believe it is the privilege of parents to decide in which activities their children will participate. Just because the school system organizes social activities, that does not mean parents should allow their children to participate. If the activities at school are incompatible with your values, you would be irresponsible to allow your children to participate.
One of the best things parents can do to foster a healthy social life for their pre-teens and teens is to organize activities in their homes, where friends can be invited to have a good time under parental supervision. Of course, the older teens, the greater maturity and responsibility, and the more privileges young people may have. However, fostering an environment where serious dating is going on between pre-teens and teens still in high school is simply premature and setting young people up to “practice divorcing” and getting their feelings hurt unnecessarily. At this age most young people are not emotionally mature enough to sustain long lasting dating relationships, and invariably break up.
We hope you will trust God to help you guide your children for their present and future success, especially in their intimate relationships.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You may correspond with them at family.adventist.org.