We can probably all remember the go-to lines our parents used to say to us comparing life from when they were growing up to our lives growing up. And you’ve probably cringed when you heard yourselves saying those same lines to your own kids. Without even trying very hard, we’ve become a lot like our parents. And maybe nothing looks more different in our generation compared to theirs than relationships with the opposite sex. What has always been complicated now feels entirely mystifying.
The terms for dating and the cultural standards are different. What you may expect for your teenagers in your family may be different than what other families expect. In fact, your expectations and guidelines may vary with each of your kids.
Thankfully, the most important thing for you to do, has little to do with the cultural whims of the day, the current relationship status of your kids, or even whether you’ve had the chance to talk about it with your students before.
When it comes to your role in the relationships your kids have in the dating realm, your first step is to fill their tank.
Students (and children, and adults, for that matter) tend to make their worst mistakes out of a place of insecurity. It’s not a conscious decision, but when someone feels insecure, they’ll do just about anything to feel otherwise. In her TED talk, author and researcher Brené Brown says, “the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.” Meaning, every child comes pre-built with a tank made for love and belonging. So, if you work hard now to make sure your students believe beyond any doubt they are loved and they fit in your family, there is less chance they will look elsewhere for the affirmation and acceptance they are wired to experience.
No, this won’t provide them with an invincible shield of armor that fights off every potential dating pitfall. But it offers a solid base your kids can build on—an anchor that grounds them when relationships change. And when they know they have what they need at home, they won’t be as desperate to find it somewhere else.
While words are powerful, they’re only worth something if they’re believed. And belief comes from hearing messages and seeing actions that support one another. We know from our own experience that someone whose behavior and words matchup is far more believable than someone whose actions contradict what they say.
Try choosing one of the messages below that you feel most strongly about your student believing.
- You are accepted. You fit in this family just the way you are.
- You matter. You are an important person.
- You are better than you think. You’re more talented, more intelligent, and more valuable than culture gives you credit for being.
Now, think of one way action you can do this week to reinforce that belief for your student?