How to Talk to Your Child About Dating
8 Tips for a Sensitive Conversation
Some parents have more trouble talking with their children than other parents do. When children begin to exhibit an interest in dating, many parents have no idea how to handle the sensitive topic. Drawing from the practices my parents used, I offer a few tips for the next time you approach your child to have a conversation about dating.
Don’t make sexual subjects taboo.
If you want your children to feel free to talk with you about any subject, you can’t have a taboo on sex, birth control, puberty, periods, or anything else. Of course, you don’t have to talk about these subjects constantly, but take the initiative to talk to your kids about sexual matters. Regardless of whether your children are actually dating anyone, they will face sexual issues. Ignoring the issues doesn’t help.
You don’t want your children to speak to you disrespectfully. Do them the service of returning the same favor. Even if their opinions are clearly wrong, don’t belittle those opinions or ridicule their questions. You can be firm and uphold your rules without speaking harshly.
Make sure you tell your children that you love them.
The more sensitive you think the conversation may be, the more you should stress your love. Even if you think they know it, say it anyway. If your kids think you’re at war with them, they will probably not have any desire to understand or respect the rules. If they hear often, even in times of disagreement, that you love them, there is a better chance that they will respect you and obey your rules even when they don’t agree with you.
Be open about your past.
You may think that it’s good enough for your children to obey your rules even if they don’t understand. And sometimes that is good enough. But other times, you do them a greater service and teach them more by helping them to understand the reasons behind your rules. If your rules spring from a desire to help your children avoid the mistakes you made in the past, consider explaining these mistakes to your children. You don’t have to provide every gruesome detail, but be honest and open in what you do reveal.
If you have one conversation with your child about dating in a span of five years, it won’t be very easy to have another. But if you often dialogue about things happening in your teen’s dating life, you will be more comfortable talking about the subject again. And your teen will be more comfortable, as well. Also talk about other subjects often. If you already enjoy a close relationship, sensitive conversations are easier to conduct.
Get to know their dates.
If your children are dating, and you have concerns, get to know the guys or girls they are dating. Nothing feels like a bigger condemnation than a parent speaking disapprovingly of someone they haven’t taken the time to get to know.
Allow your child the freedom to form his/her own opinions.
By all means, give your child all the tools you can to form solid opinions and make wise choices. Give them facts, statistics, books, and so forth. But don’t discourage their challenges or questions. Instead, help them answer their questions and learn to make decisions wisely.
Communicate your convictions.
If you hold to certain convictions about dating because of your upbringing, your faith, or your experience, communicate these convictions to your children clearly. Make sure they know where you stand. Your kids may choose to disregard your convictions. But if they do, they ought to have no doubt what they are doing. Make the guidelines clear to your children.
If your children approach you about dating, you can be glad that they have the courage to do so. But you may have to take the initiative to be involved in this area of your children’s lives. With love and kindness, and probably an additional measure of boldness, you can help your teens sort through dating issues.
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