My daughter, Monica, came home one day after grammar school and announced, “When I see boys I want to hug them and kiss them.” Then the question, “Mom, am I allowed to kiss boys?”
How does a mother respond? Go play with a doll or eat a cupcake, and stop thinking about boys, geez! you’re too young for this. But I knew I couldn’t say that. With my daughter’s I-just-dare-you-to-tell-me-no personality I knew I’d best be careful with my answer.
I wanted to ignore the question, ignore the scary feelings it brought up in me as a mom, and ignore that my little girl was beginning to feel attractions which I wasn’t sure I was equipped to handle.
A FULL RANGE OF FEELINGS
The sooner we as parents come to terms with the fact that our children were created with all the full range of feelings and longings and desires which God crafted as male and female for his glory, and for our good, the easier it will go.
“He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them “mankind” on the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:2 NASB). We can talk to our kids about this, or we can ignore it.
If we begin talking with our kids early on about attractions and the opposite sex, it can naturally flow as they grow into the teen years. Not being able to talk with their parents about dating and relationships was a common theme among teenagers I’ve worked with.
One young lady told me, “All I have to do is mention a boy’s name and my parents freak out!” Don’t we want our kids coming to us with these types of struggles and desires?
4 THINGS TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT WITH RELATIONSHIPS:
1. SET A FOUNDATION
From when they are young start talking about boys and girls and sex and dating and relationships—use age-appropriate discussions but tackle these subjects like a linebacker stopping a touchdown. Because truthfully sometimes that’s what you’ll be doing—metaphorically of course. It’s never too soon to lay this foundation of openness.
2. LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
No child—or adult for that matter—likes to be lectured. When we lecture our kids rather than listen to what’s going on in their hearts, they shut us off. And worse, next time they will talk with someone else.
Listen to who he is trying to sit next to in class. Listen to who she is trying to get attention from. Listen to who she thinks is cute. Listen with no judgement or condemnation. Remember this is how God made us, and it’s natural.
Instead of talking, ask questions. Be a safe place for them to land during the confusing time of surging hormones, mean-girl politics, social media comparisons, and online gaming as your child seeks to find their way.
Be that listening ear. Again, with no judgement or condemnation. There’s a time to “pour out our wisdom” with our kids but not while they are opening up to us. Look for other opportunities to have further talks and discussions about life, the Bible, and walking with Jesus Christ.
3. DON’T OVERREACT
There were many times when one of my kids would be talking to me and I would think, “AHHHHH oh no! This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening. Make it stop!”
Breathe. But on the outside, poker-face. Then later I’d get on my knees and cry out to God and ask for direction.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). In this manner, we can respond instead of react.
4. BE GRACIOUS WITH SLIP UPS
Be ready for “slips.” If they feel safe with you, they will come to you. And when they do, extend grace and love and empathy, not shame or disappointment.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). This is when we can show them the heart of Jesus.
When we love and fully accept our children through their junk, we are taking them straight to the heart of God.
Be understanding and then ask how you can help through whatever difficult circumstance has been presented.
CONSIDER HOW YOU’D WANT TO BE TREATED
When can they date? What are the dating rules? These will be different for each household, but when we’ve laid a foundation of love and trust through communication and understanding, as the parameters are set and agreed upon, our kids are more likely to make wise choices and allow us to speak into their dating relationships.
And more importantly they will trust us to help guide them as they navigate these slippery and sometimes dangerous slopes.
Now, back to my daughter asking if she were allowed to kiss boys, my reply was, “Well, yes, of course you are. It seems silly to me to say you can’t when I won’t be there.” But then later we had a talk about whether it was a good idea, and how being friends with boys might be her best option.
And her wanting to hug and kiss boys—what I told her on that day was, “I know exactly how you feel, that’s why I married your dad.” It opened a kaleidoscope of discussions.
This article originally appeared here.