I come from a generation where I never saw my parents hold hands or even hug each other except on birthdays. They love each other to bits but being affectionate in front of us wasn’t something they ever did.
Let me ask you a question.
Have you ever had your kid looking at you while kissing or snuggling with your partner? What was your immediate response to this situation?
There are 2 ways you could possibly react – you flinched and drew apart or you continued comfortably with a smile. The impact of both these actions is different.
The former suggests your discomfort with the public display of affection in front of your kids thus it’s avoidance. The latter is the evidence of leading through an example for your child.
Experts will be the first to reassure you that showing affection toward your partner in front of your little ones is perfectly healthy.
By openly showing affection toward one another — like holding hands, hugging each other, giving each other quick pecks on the cheek or mouth, saying ‘I love you’, and being nice toward one another — you’re teaching your kids what a healthy relationship looks like. This helps make them feel more safe, secure and loved.
More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to teach your kids early on about consent, touch, and more.
Discussing topics related to love, kisses, and public displays of affection (PDA) with tween kids can be a sensitive but important conversation. They need to understand the good, the bad and the ugly.
I have 2 teenagers in the house and these are some of the things I did to help us through the process.
Tips To Talk To Your Tween About Kissing & Love
It can be uncomfortable to address anything concerning sexuality with your child, but avoiding the topic altogether will do more harm than good. Ensure your child feels comfortable during the conversation. If they seem uneasy or don’t want to discuss it further, respect their boundaries, and let them know they can come back to you with questions at any time.
Broach The Topic
Children are naturally curious about what their bodies can do, and what it means when they see their parents give each other a long kiss. Approach a conversation about kissing/ love with an open mind, and always start by asking your child what they already know. It is age-appropriate for tweens/teens to be curious, but limits should be established for physical touch. Consent, respect and limits are very important and they need to be explained to kids at every stage of their growing years.
Dr. Kristin Carothers, a psychologist with the Child Mind Institute in New York City says
Sometimes we give explicit information about what not to do. But then we fail to let kids know what they should do instead,” she says. “Giving children behaviours they should engage in, provides a unique teaching and learning opportunity.” For example, if the parent tells an adolescent that kissing is off-limits, the parent should include what is allowed. In this case, that could include the young boy telling the girl the positive things he likes about her, why he appreciates her, or giving her a card or some special gift he has made for her.
I always say nothing is better than a parent’s instinct. Trust your gut. You have to do what makes it easy for you to sleep at night.
Reality vs. What Movies Show
Your teen may also have some unrealistic ideas about dating based on what they’ve seen online, in the movies, or read in books. Real-life dating doesn’t mimic a teen Netflix or Disney movie and it is important that your tween/ teen understands that. Even if your perspective is a bit outdated, sharing it can get the conversation started. Ask them what they have in mind about dating and what questions they may have. Possibly share some of your own experiences.
Listening vs. Lecturing
Kids often tell their parents about their friends’ romantic relationships. Instead of lecturing or judging, give them a chance to voice their opinion and process their thoughts and feelings. My kids always tell me about their crushes and their friends. I just keep a neutral face when they talk. They need to know they can come to me with things they want to talk about and want to ask. I tease them about the girl/ boy who has caught their fancy but I also teach them the importance of respect in any relationship. It works both ways – for boys and for girls.
Make Time For Alone Time With Them
Drop the cellphones, turn off the TV and just spend time talking, not just about school but about everything. If you continually have conversations, eventually love, dating and sex will come up, and they will open up. Also, kids tend to want to talk more at night than in the morning or after school. I try and get some time with them either during dinner or at night. My kids are 13 and 17 years old and too old to be tucked into bed. But I still go sit on their bed and make that time to listen to them talk, leaving my cell phone outside. It makes them feel heard & they know they have my full attention. I ask them questions – Why do you like that boy?” or “What interests you about her? Is she funny? Is he really good at cricket?” They also ask me questions about my growing years and I try and answer them as honestly as possible.
If They Kiss It’s OK
When it does happen, don’t board up the windows or lock your teenager away. This is one of the first big memories your son or daughter will have for the rest of his or her life. When it happens, don’t be so quick to lock him or her away or hide them from the world. This is an important moment for some and a miserable one for others, but by all means, don’t make it a bad one for your child.
Your reaction is very important. If you explode, it can cause the teen to become angry and upset, and they might not confide in you anymore. Comment on their honesty actually. Talk about how special a first kiss can be, but emphasize how that level of physical contact is appropriate. Honest communication is key to being there for your kids.
Lastly, this is just some advice that has worked for me with my kids.
- Don’t listen in on phone calls or eavesdrop on private chats
- Don’t read every social media message.
- Keep tabs on what you can, especially if you have any concerns about what is going on but allow for space as well.
- There’s a small window of time between when your teen begins dating and when they’re going to be entering the adult world. Aim to provide guidance that can help them succeed in their future relationships.
The more open and supportive you can be with them, the better. After all, if something does go awry, you’ll want them to know that you’re always in their corner.
I would love to know your experiences. Share them with us in the comments below or write to us firstname.lastname@example.org.