No one prepares parents on how to talk to their kids about love, dating, sex, marriage, and everything in between. It’s not exactly in every parenting book out there, and often moms and dads have to navigate this potentially tricky subject on their own. Thankfully, there are ways to go about this without traumatizing our children for good.
You might have children and are worried about talking to them about love, dating, and marriage. If so, here are some pointers on encouraging them and speaking truthfully with them according to their age and stage in life.
Adult children (18 years old onwards)
If you are parents to young adults onward, it’s never too late to encourage them to make good choices in their love lives. Suppose they are no longer kids who are still under your legal guardianship, and thus they have free reins to make decisions for themselves. In that case, you still have legs to stand on to provide advice, especially if they ask for it and you have a healthy and trusting parent-child relationship. Your role now is to encourage and empower, not direct and guide. Here are some tips to encourage your adult children with their love lives:
- If you have been married or know what it’s like to be in a long-term committed relationship, be honest about the struggles your children might experience if they choose a similar path. Since they grew up with you and your spouse or partner, they might have seen it for themselves anyway, and there’s no use lying or sugarcoating reality.
- Encourage them to be the best person they can be for their future partner. Apologize for all the ways they might have been hurt by you when they were growing up, and tell them you will support them in their journey towards healing and wholeness.
- As they work on themselves, empower them to not settle for less when choosing a partner. Tell them that because they are also putting in the work to be the best version of themselves, they also deserve a romantic partner who does the same thing. Encourage them to put themselves out there through channels that can help them find the best kinds of people, like professional matchmaking services.
Teens (13 to 17 years old)
I have bad news, parents: At this age, it’s best to assume your kids already know about the birds and the bees. If you have never sat them down to talk about romance, love, sex, and dating, then you can be sure that they already learned through their friends, sex-ed class, or various forms of media. This is not a bad thing, though; whatever they know can be a great jumping-off point to start conversations about it.
Talk to your kids about it. Tell them that love and romance are a natural part of the human experience and that if they are starting to have feelings for their peers, it’s normal and okay. Depending on your agreed-upon family values (some families are more conservative in their beliefs; others are more open), assure your teenage kids that they are loved no matter what.
Show them that you believe in their ability to make positive choices for their lives and their futures and that you will learn to love whoever they love. This should be as long as the relationship and the person are not harming them. When it comes to dealing with teenagers, it’s all about honest communication and leading with openness and kindness instead of disdain and judgment.
Kids (Three to 12 years old)
If your young kids grow up with parents who have a healthy relationship or marriage, then you’re already doing half the work. You are walking the talk before your kids even have a clue about romantic relationships and dating. If your kid sees you and your partner being affectionate, respectful, and loving, then it won’t be hard for your child to envision themselves in a similar relationship one day.
However, this doesn’t mean that single parents or those in a troubled relationship or marriage can no longer be a positive influence on their children’s future love lives. Keep the communication lines open and cultivate a loving relationship with your kids so that they feel whole. Be honest with them about where your own relationship went wrong and what you would have done differently. Open communication is key to teaching them what it means to be in a healthy and functional romantic relationship.
Our job as parents is to teach our children not to stray from the paths that will lead them to their highest good. Don’t neglect to teach them about the one thing that can make or break their hearts: Love and romance.