Boyfriends and girlfriends: Facebook Live
Boyfriends, girlfriends … even for our under fives, this is part of what they hear and see day to day.
In one of our Facebook Lives for parents and carers, Rachel Turner shares some thoughts on how you might help you and your under 5, 5 to 11 or teen navigate this tricky topic and lay some firm foundations for their adult life and relationships.
You can watch all three of the Facebook Lives – for under fives, 5s to 11s and, preteens and teens – below, and just to help, if you scroll down, there’s a summary of Rachel’s main points.
For all age groups
Rewrite the central narrative of their lives
What our children hear, from the earliest age, is a narrative that says you will inevitably grow up, fall in love, get married and have a family. It’s there in the gentle teasing of young children, playground talk of girlfriend and boyfriends, teenage angst about attractiveness, and the expectations for our young adults.
But what if we share with them a different central narrative? That they are a child of God who is powerful and purposeful and on a great and unique adventure with Him. On the way you might find someone to marry and join your adventure, but you might not. Whether we find someone or not, God has placed around us a community of friends and family to do life with. This is a much more realistic narrative of life, and one that centres on our relationship with God and relationships with others become part of our journey with God rather than the most significant thing in life.
Talk about what romance is and isn’t
In popular culture, the starting point for romance is so often based on physical attractiveness. In one of the Parenting for Faith podcasts, Rachel shared three tools to help your child understand romance differently.
For under 5s
Help your under five figure out the difference between friendship and marriage
- Frame what being a good friend is, and remind them that you don’t have to worry about being married, you can be a friend with anyone, and friendships can last for ever too.
- When they see adult boyfriend / girlfriend relationships, frame this to them in whatever way you understand the purpose of dating and what’s important in those relationships.
- Frame marriage for them: for example, it’s taking care of someone’s heart, loving God together, being faithful, so that when they get older they understand marriage well.
For more about framing, see here.
5s to 11s
At this age, children usually fall into gender groups, and there’s often an expectation that you can’t be friends with someone of the other gender unless it’s a relationship. Explain friendship for them as part of God’s design for life: God put a little bit of himself in everyone and in the body of Christ you might find boys / girls who might be excellent friends in your life. What’s important isn’t if they are a boy or a girl but they are a good friend.
Ask good questions to help them explore the issues
When your children tell you about their friends who are going out, or interested in someone, use curious questions to help them explore the idea of relationships: for example:
- What happens when you go out with someone?
- Are there lots of people getting together?
- What does that mean?
If your child says they have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you can also help them think through things that happen in relationships: jealousy, responsibility, how to end a relationship, manipulation, protecting your heart, boundaries.
Teens and preteens
Some ideas to help you handle dating with your kids.
Think about your understanding and expectation of dating before you need to have conversations with your child about dating – what do you think is the best thing for your child, and what is my role as a parent in my child’s dating? This will depend on how your family does things, what you believe and what’s best for your particular child.
Use curious questions to help you and your teen figure things out and explore the issues. Curious questions invite your teen to explain their world to you so that you understand; they open up conversation and don’t carry judgement or immediately offer an opinion. For example:
- Why are your friends dating when they are only 12?
- Are you tempted to date?
- How do you handle it when people are together?
- Is it hard to say no to dating?
For more about curious questions, see chapter 25 of Parenting Children for a Life of Faith (Omnibus).
Think ahead of time about what they might need equipping in: for example:
- What a good relationship is
- How to say no if someone asks you out
- What to do if you feel manipulated
- How to be godly in a relationship
- What boundaries might be appropriate
Your own stories can be particularly powerful in this.