by Charla Dury
As a mom of growing young men, I struggle with parental boundaries. It is difficult to know when (and how) to give my kids advice about romantic relationships, let alone teaching kids about intimacy.
I enjoy watching my boys happy in their relationships, but as with the rest of life, that’s not always the case. I’ve also watched with disappointment as each of my boys have cultivated codependent tendencies. Knowing that they learned these relationship “moves” from me and their dad makes me sad.
As a parent in today’s society, we’ve all heard that kids learn by example. It has never been more apparent, however, than it is when watching as your child makes the mistakes you had hoped that they didn’t see. The times that you gave up on something that you wanted to do in favor of not upsetting your partner. The times that you allowed yourself to be talked into something that you knew was a bad idea.
Share your experiences
I think it is a good thing to share with your child the evolution of your own relationships. Your missteps and disappointments as well as triumphs and successes. No one started out knowing how to be in a relationship. We all learned somehow. This can even include talking about sex, depending on your comfort level with your child.
Talk with your Kids, an organization promoting quality sexual and reproductive care, offers many well organized, bullet pointed lists in their article, What is a healthy relationship. They talk about helping your teen flesh out what they want in a relationship, to find the core values and stick to them and to not settle for less. It’s hard to tell that to a kid who might be watching his friends in relationships. He or she might be sick of feeling lonely and like a third wheel. But love and respect is what you want for your child. Nothing less.
While many websites such as Talk with your Kids have insightful information about how to talk to your kids, there is no replacing showing them through actions.
If you don’t communicate well in your own relationships (they don’t even have to be romantic relationships for the kids to get the point) learn how. Learn with your partner and your child if you don’t feel able to teach by doing. If you and your partner get into an argument (which is normal and natural) don’t hit below the belt. Focus your argument on what is going on now, don’t bring up old hurts. They’re not helpful.
Relationships aren’t always easy, but they don’t always have to be hard, either. Relationships with your partner and with your kids, are all based on the feelings between the two of you. If you show and expect respect yourself, people will come to show and expect respect, as they should.
If you talk about your feelings and experiences, your kids might find it easier to talk about their feelings and experiences with you. Even if it’s an uncomfortable subject like sex (especially if they’re willing to talk to you about sex), make sure to listen.