A parent called me the other day with a question about 5th graders. Her son had been invited to a "boy-girl" party. Whaaaaaat!!!! It wasn't a birthday party or a holiday celebration, but a mom anxious to get the ball rolling on the popularity train, encouraged her daughter to party down. What do I think? Really? It's stupid, there I said it. There is no rush to put these tweens in a situation that I know they will feel completely awkward in. Which isn't to say, the kids aren't wetting their pants over the idea of it. Is that crude? Sorry, its just that the end of childhood keeps getting whittled down to a shorter and shorter time, and I feel protective. Unfortunately, it puts parents who feel like me in an awkward situation. Do they let their kids go, or do they say no, trying to explain to their child/tween that its just not quite time yet, and face having them not even understand what you are talking about. Not quite time for what, they will ask? You know what I think, I think you say: "gee honey, I'm sorry we have family plans that night, sorry you won't be able to make it," and just leave it at that. Sometimes saying less is more. Everything doesn't need to be explained. Distraction works just fine.
The only kind of "party" like this I would sanction, was if it was activity based. An ice skating or rollerskating or bowling party. Do I sound like I was raised in the 50's. Do kids even do these wholesome kinds of activities anymore? It's the house-party situation that is premature. A situation where there is not enough structure is asking for trouble. There will always be the more precocious kids who will be the ring leaders, trying to mimic more "teenagery" kinds of behavior that perhaps they have seen on TV or with older siblings. Spin the bottle, truth or dare, games that most kids will feel uncomfortable with, or clueless about, but feel pressured to participate can spell trouble.
So if you are anxious to move your tween towards more teen like behavior. Check your own needs at the door. If you are more interested in your tween's social life than your tween is, that's a problem. 5th and 6th grades are real transition years. Don't rush them.