How to Prepare Your Child for Successful Relationships

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How to Prepare Your Child for Successful Relationships

Connecting by conversing

By Tracey Or | 19 February 2021

Successful relationships often form the baseline for meaningful interactions and achieving happiness in life. Parents tend to be more proactive in preparing our children’s pathways for a successful education and career.

In comparison, we may be far less intentional in laying the socio-emotional blueprint for the establishment of healthy relationships in our children’s lives.

It is not uncommon to put off addressing topics on sexuality – or leave it to the teachers in school to cover. However, the reality is our children live in a highly-sexualised, media-saturated environment, which may offer them skewed versions of human relationships with values that may not sit well with our own.

In truth, many of us DO hope to be the first person our child approaches to talk to about love and sexuality. If we miss this window of opportunity in their younger years, will our children shut us out from their relational struggles?

In truth, healthy relationships don’t just “fall into place” and some intentional effort in teaching our children how to manage relationships can really go a long way!

Here are some suggestions to approach it practically and intuitively in our interactions with our children.

  1. Be open and non-judgemental with your child

    In order to prepare our children to have successful relationships in future, we must first foster a successful relationship WITH them – one based on trust, authenticity and vulnerability.

    Our patience to listen, be non-judgemental and provide a safe space for them to “work out” their struggles and emotions in front of us is very much needed by our growing child or teen.

    As adults too, we have probably picked up experiences through life or made mistakes. We can be open and ready to share our reflections and life lessons with our children when the opportunity arises. This can open a door for deeper emotional sharing with our children as they mature.

    My teens used to cringe when I broached such topics due to initial awkwardness. However, the more we connected, the more they found it natural to come back to ventilate their concerns and anxieties over relationship woes.

  2. Connect early and frequently

    Cultivate conversations with our children early and persevere in connecting frequently. Keep finding opportunities to talk as they mature and move through different life stages, so that we normalise conversations about sexuality and relationships at home.

    Here are some ideas:
    • While driving them to school in the car
      The car is a private space where your teen doesn’t have to look at you but can hear what you have to say.
    • Use a relevant TV show/movie
      Discuss relationship traits and behaviours conveyed in the show. Look for instances that reinforce positive behaviour or take time to discuss the consequences of risky behaviour.
    • Share relevant articles
      If your teen is still reticent, share relevant news articles and personal insights that they can read on their own and hopefully discuss in person with you next time.
  3. Have conversations about important issues

    Here are some potential topics you can broach to teach and communicate your values on healthy relationships:

    • Help your child to understand the difference between love and sex. Discuss their attraction to the opposite sex, for example what a fleeting crush may feel like or pressures to get attached.
    • Communicate your own expectations for your teen about relationships and sex. Establish dating values and principles early. For example, sexual intimacy shouldn’t be treated casually and should be a precious gift for one’s future spouse.
    • Discuss and identify qualities the opposite sex should have. Equip your child to look for relationships where honesty, loyalty, kindness, trust and mutual respect are present.
    • Discuss the consequences of premarital sex and the social, moral and ethical issues that could arise from it.
    • Help them be aware of how to draw healthy physical and emotional boundaries.
    • Brainstorm strategies on how to deal with pressure from peers and how to say “no” to things they are uncomfortable with.
    • Talk about the idea of consent: That no one can force them to do anything that they do not want to be done on them and their bodies. How to recognise tell-tale signs of abusive behaviour and emotional manipulation.
    • Build your child’s self-esteem and confidence in their own character and attractiveness.< Let them know that feeling good about oneself goes beyond being popular and looking good. Help your teen discover their inner strengths, their best qualities and how to stay true to one’s values.
    • Model and teach respect for the opposite sex through discussion topics on relationship etiquette and through your own marriage.
    • Have conversations about marriage and what to look out for in a future partner.

Such conversations may not always be comfortable and easy to engage in, but remember that we don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, we can let our teen know that we value his or her opinion, even if it is different from ours.

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

 

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