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Helping Your Child Through Their First Relationship

by | Wed, Aug 31 2022

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We all want to be approachable as parents, but it may be difficult to maintain composure when our kids come home to tell us they have their first boyfriend or girlfriend. Often it starts out very innocent, and it’s important for our children to learn how to interact with the opposite sex.

Focus on the Family’s Brett and Kate Ryan recently joined us on Rise & Shine to share their suggestions on how to continue the dialogue with our children as they get older. In order to prevent our kids from becoming secretive, they believe it’s crucial parents encourage open and honest communication.

Interacting with the Opposite Sex

‘At a certain point,’ says Kate, ‘they just experience a different type of relationship. They may not have had a friend that’s of the opposite sex before, and it becomes a little bit exciting. We like to encourage the opposite sex to make friends because that’s how they learn about each other.’

Most of Kate’s friends growing up were boys. She discovered that since she was so athletic, she really clicked with them. She also liked the absence of drama. Young people need to learn how to connect with one another and interact, and Kate thinks it’s crucial to avoid making a big deal out of it.

‘You don’t want anything to be off limits,’ says Brett. ‘You want your kids to come to you and talk about anything. As parents, we need to learn to respond, not react to keep the conversation going. With our own children, we set a guideline that they weren’t allowed to date until after high school.’

Set Boundaries and Expectations Together

Brett says that they made this rule as a family, but he and Kate have always encouraged their sons to have a lot of friends. They wanted them to know how to interact with girls too. It’s also important to talk to our kids about what they hope to get out of a relationship and why they want one.

‘We talked about the reason why we didn’t want them to have girlfriends in school,’ says Kate. ‘Friends can turn on each other if things don’t work out. It can damage friendship groups. I wanted them to create beautiful friendships and get to know each other. There is plenty of time to date outside of school.’

Brett believes it’s really important to talk to our kids and explain to them the reasons why we set particular rules and boundaries for them. Boyfriends and girlfriends will come and go from their lives, but friends are the ones that stay. Teenagers don’t understand that balance because their brains are still developing.

‘There are couples that met their now husband or wife in high school,’ says Brett. ‘They started dating very young and it’s turned out well. That’s a wonderful story and we commend it. But for all of those that don’t work out, parents have to watch their children go through the heartbreak.’

Keep the Conversation Going

Teens are not really ready for those very deep and meaningful relationships until a little bit later on. ‘It’s a discussion we need to have with our young people,’ says Kate. ‘Because what they see on TV shows is a kiss, and then the next minute you see them in bed. They don’t understand that that’s not the process.’

But as Christians with faith, that’s not what we believe. Parents need to appreciate the privilege of being the first voice in their children’s lives. It’s important to see these things as teachable moments, and talk to our kids about what they’ve seen.

‘These are the joys and struggles of parenting,’ says Brett. ‘We have actually just released a new video series on our platform, and we’d love to be able to encourage people to sign up. We want to help them navigate some of the big issues through this highly sexualised world.’

For further resources on parenting visit our Vision Store, or click here for more information and advice from Brett and Kate Ryan.

This article was inspired by Brett and Kate Ryan. Listen to their full interview on Rise & Shine below: