Hi and welcome to Beyond the Pew! Since today is Valentine’s Day, we are going to be talking about how to talk to your kids about dating and relationships. There is so much in this topic to talk about that I know we’re not going to get through everything, but hopefully we can touch on some of the basics!
I know a lot of people have different ways of talking to their kids about dating and relationships, but what I have seen is most parents freaking out that their kids are even thinking of dating. “How could my little baby even be interested in anyone!?” And so we just kind of ignore the subject altogether. What happens then, is that our kids, instead of learning from their parents, end up learning from their peers who have no idea what they’re doing. Or they learn from their culture, they learn from media, TV shows, music, movies… and the media and our culture is not the place they should be learning this from. It should come from you.
[tweetthis]When we don’t talk to our kids about dating, they learn from peers, movies, & social media. It should come from you.[/tweetthis]
The best thing we can do is bite the bullet and have that conversation. I have found the best way to begin this conversation is to just start by asking: “What do you think that the purpose of dating is?” Have that conversation of what they think dating is for and chances are they have no idea because the culture and the media don’t know what the purpose of dating is. So tell them, the purpose of dating and relationships is to see if you could potentially spend your life with that person.
Sometimes we think it’s just to get to know someone but that’s not entirely true because that’s what friendship is for. Friendship is getting to know someone. And once we have established a friendship with someone then we can start asking that question, “Can I spend the rest of my life with this person?” Of course our kids might look at the people in their class and the fact is none of them are ready to live up to that kind of discernment. An 8th grade boy in your daughter’s class is not ready or mature enough to be looked at and thought of, “Could I spend the rest of my life with this 8th grade boy?” They are not in that place yet! Our kids are not even sure who they are yet and do not have the capability to ask of another youth, who also does not know who they are yet, if they could spend the rest of their life with them. They are not ready for that yet. We need to start encouraging our children to have foundational friendships.
[tweetthis]Dating isn’t “getting to know someone.” That’s friendship. [/tweetthis]
We can also have the conversation with our kids of what they might look for in a future spouse. This prepares them for when they are ready to date and can truly discern within a mature relationship. I have found this to be helpful in my own life and also for the junior high and high school kids that I mentor. We sit down and talk about what is important to them and we make a list. Not a shallow list, like “must be a doctor” or “must have blue eyes.” But a list that outlines the things that matter, like if that potential spouse can lead them in a relationship with God. Or if that person has a desire to grow. If they lead us closer to God or away from God. Things like, does this person lie to their parents and do they encourage me to lie to my parents? Are they a hard worker? How do they treat their siblings? Do they frighten me when they get angry? Are they kind? Are they merciful? Asking different questions like that will help your children find a holy man or woman of God when the time is right and when they are ready. It’s important to start asking these questions now, when they are young. They are going to have emotions and feelings throughout their entire lives and they are going to be better equipped to deal with those emotions and feelings when they know what they are looking for in the future.
Your kids are going to have emotions and feelings throughout their entire lives and they are going to be better equipped to deal with those emotions and feelings when they know what they are looking for in the future.
When you open up this line of communication, you can start practicing with your kids how to have this discernment now. When your son comes to you and says, “I like this girl in my class.” Then you can have this conversation with these questions. Maybe he does like this girl in his class, but it turns out she puts people down. Of course he isn’t ready to be discerning marriage, but it is good practice for him in the future to say, “Okay, I like this person but they gossip a lot and it really bothers me.” “I like this person, but we don’t share the same values.” “I have feelings for this person but they flirt a lot with a lot of other people and that bothers me.” Those are problems that come up as many of us know. We all carry wounds with us and you can help your children avoid those by helping them practice now evaluating what is important and having them discern that now.
[tweetthis]Help your children avoid future wounds by evaluating what is important and having them discern that now.[/tweetthis]
Now is the time to practice that kind of discernment, even if it is so early and they are not even in that place to discern marriage. But practice being able to see and distinguish between something that is worth continuing and something that is not worth continuing. Many of us have made mistakes in dating and relationships because of big character flaws that the other person and we can help our kids avoid those mistakes. Are they going to make mistakes? Absolutely, but you can help them avoid making the mistakes that will cause deep wounds and hurt their future relationships that could be good relationships.
If you get anything from today, just open the door of communication between you and your children about dating. I know it’s scary, but I think many times in this we are more scared of our kids than they are of us. Talk to them. And chances are, when you have that line of communication, they will be more open and receptive about talking to you when something comes up. They will be more willing to share with you when they know you are willing to hear from them.
[tweetthis]Your kids will be more willing to share with you when they know you are willing to hear from them. Talk to them.[/tweetthis]
Final thing is to start praying for your kids’ spouses now! My mom started praying for my future husband when I was a little girl and I started praying for my future husband when I was in middle school. It’s never too early. And my husband actually attributes several places of his life when God spared him from this or that, because my mom and I were praying for him. Encourage your kids to pray for their future spouses and pray for your kids’ future spouses and you will see the fruit be born later on in their lives. Pray for their vocations- maybe they are called to religious life! Begin to pray now for their future vocation and spouse.
We will definitely be praying for you! Open that door of communication and start praying for your kids’ future vocations. Happy Valentine’s Day! God bless!