Your most important role as a parent is to prepare your child for adulthood. One of the big steps in that preparation is teaching your child how to handle intimate relationships. From dating and communication to physical intimacy and consent, the way you speak to your child will play a huge role in how their futures develop. Below are a few things you can do to teach your child about healthy relationships.
Be Honest and Open
It’s important to begin your conversations about relationships with a sense of honesty. Tell your child not only what you think, but why you think that way. Don’t be afraid of sharing your experiences, albeit in an age-appropriate (and relationship-appropriate) manner. When your child knows where you are coming from, you’ll be able to make a more reliable connection and he or she will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Model Good Relationship
The best way to convince your child of the importance of good relationships is to model them yourself. Think about how you communicate, how you act, and how you position yourself in your own relationships. No matter what you say, your child will look at what you do to decide how to act. If you are unable to model the types of relationships that you think are important, there is a very good chance that your child will end up having the same problems.
Talk About the Hard Topics
The hard topics are the most important to speak about. This means talking directly not only about physical intimacy, but the realistic consequences of intimacy. Talk about contraception, pregnancy, and even STD testing when you talk to your child about relationships. You might think that avoiding the subject will mean that your child will stay away from those activities, but the truth is that avoidance simply puts your child at more risk of making poor decisions. Have the hard conversations now so that you don’t have to have even harder conversations in the future.
Encourage Questions and Questioning
Finally, make sure that your child feels comfortable asking you questions. There are some things that you take for granted that your child may not know about, so encourage him or her to be honest with you. You should also feel comfortable letting your child ask you why you think a certain way or why you express certain feelings. This is not a point where ‘because I said so’ really works, as most children and young adults will simply ascribe their own reasoning to your motivations when you are not honest.
Always make time to talk to children about the physical and emotional aspects of having healthy relationships. Model what they should do with your actions and encourage them to talk to you when they have questions. If you are patient and available, you’ll be able to prepare your child for a future that’s not only healthier but one that’s also more emotionally functional.
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