Oh No, My Kid is Talking Marriage

A friend of mine was talking a while back about the unbelievable boldness of her son’s girlfriend. “How dare that girl come into our home and act that way,” she verbalized to me. “I have no idea what Nick sees in her anymore. It’s like she has become a totally different person.”

As the conversation continued, the whole story came tumbling out. “Nick has been dating Chelsea for a few years.  They’ve been cute together and I liked her.  Even as they started college I always thought they were going to be the perfect couple. It is like she has always been part of our family. But something seems different about their relationship.  As time goes on and I see them talking about marriage, it is as if she has changed.  She has become someone who wants Nick to always do things her way.”

“Just last week I had all the kids home for the long weekend.  After dinner Tom suggested that everyone help with the dishes so it wouldn’t take so long. Chelsea has always helped me in the kitchen when she was there before. But this time, as I gave everyone a job, I handed her a clean dishcloth to wipe off the table. She looked at me and said, ‘Someone else will have to do that job; I’ve told Nick I’m not going to do dishes any more. When we get married, that’s his job.’ She then handed him the dishcloth and told him to do it while she went in and sat in the family room to look at a Bride’s magazine.”

“Obviously, I was stunned.  I didn’t even know what to say as I watched Nick clean off the table for her.” 

Nicole continued to lament. “I don’t know what she expects, anymore.  The other day she was at the house with Nick and we were sitting in the family room talking about when they thought they would get married. It was as if she had her life all planned out–next year we’ll get married, then I’m going to grad school, then I want to work for several years–at least 10 years–and I might decide to get my doctorate, and then we’ll probably have a baby.”

Laughingly, I interjected, “So if you do all those things, how old will that make you when you have your first baby?”

“What did she say?” I chimed in.

“We did the math together, keep in mind we were all still laughing and enjoying the conversation, and she realized that if she followed her plan, she would be 42.”

“What happened next?” 

“We continued on with our conversation, no big deal, and then the two of them left.”

“So the conversation went well I take it? She realized that her dream most likely wouldn’t become reality?”

“Yeah, I thought so until later that night. Nick came home and was so upset at me. He told me how mad Chelsea was that I had ruined her plans for her life and that I had no right to interfere.”

I see it often.  Girl meets boy.  Boy wants to impress girl.  (Sometimes it is the opposite). They fall in love.  And something happens as they each get older and one begins to steamroll to make sure they get the life they want.  Sometimes our kids are oblivious to the changes and the potentially unfulfilling life they might be choosing.

So what can we do as parents when we see our kids moving toward marriage with the wrong person?

  1. Keep the lines of communication open. 
  2. Rather than complain about the person your son/daughter is dating, ask questions when you and your child are alone.  “I see you and Chelsea are talking about marriage.  How did you come to the decision that she is the one?  What do you envision for your life together?  I was surprised that Chelsea refused to take the dishcloth and help clean the kitchen the other day.  Is something up?”
  3. As you ask questions, listen and don’t comment.  Let your child talk without interruption.  Then ask more questions when there is lull in the conversation.
  4. And if you haven’t already, begin conversations about how your child sees marriage.  You might even talk about what you appreciate in your own spouse especially as it lines up with behaviors you are seeing in your child’s relationship.
  5. Continue the dialogue.  “After our earlier conversation about Chelsea, I have some concerns I’d like to share.  May I do that?  I’m hearing her talk about her life, but how does that intertwine with your life plan?  She is talking about grad school and a doctorate, all of that is going to be expensive.  I’m concerned that Chelsea is only looking at her life and not your lives together… I hope you will both talk about these things before you decide to get married.  But know that I never want you to feel the need to choose between Chelsea and us.  I’ll support you no matter what you choose.”
  6. And pray without ceasing.

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

When that special ‘someone’ enters our children’s lives we naturally want to gravitate to giving advice to our kids.  It is important that they are in the right place to receive it and that means we have to think about our own relationship with our kid.  Whatever we say will most likely get repeated to their significant other.

When in doubt about the communication — think relationship.  

Dare you to respect your 20-somethings enough to cautiously give advice and at the same time recognize that they have to make their own choices.

“Let go…and let God,”

10 Tips As Your Kids Begin to Date

Three stories, totally unrelated, are weighing heavy on my mind today.  They have to do with three people who are at totally different stages of life, yet, the theme is the same–heartbreak and misunderstood love.

I’m not sure I have any real answers on how these three individuals can overcome their feelings of desperation, yet I feel that we can all learn something from their situations as we parent our teens and tweens.

How can we help our kids make wise decisions about love?  How can we help them see truth about another person when passion is in play?

If you think about it, our kids have grown up with Disney and Fairy Tales.  We’ve indoctrinated them to believe all their dreams and magical thinking can come true.

But somewhere we need to teach them that dreams don’t always end in a happily ever after.  We need to plant some seeds of reality early on so that they learn to love with the logical part of their brain rather than just the emotional part.  I’m not saying that passion is not part of the love equation.  After all, it is the physical attraction that spices up a future marriage.  However, our kids need to know that passion and reality need to go hand-in-hand.

Several years ago I remember seeing a book called Love is a Choice:  The Definitive Book of Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier.  I love the title.  Somehow I think we need to teach our kids that we don’t fall in love–we choose love.

As we talk to our kids about choosing love, there is a question that we need to teach our kids to ask themselves.  “Is this love relationship good for me?

I’ve been watching a few unhealthy relationships at close view lately–a woman who married because she was “in love” even though they didn’t see eye-to-eye in the dating phase of life; a young man who is in a rehab facility because his girlfriend got him hooked on drugs and rather than focusing on his recovery he can’t wait to see her again because he “loves” her; a young woman who walked into a relationship even though she was told by numerous people that the timing wasn’t right and continued to stay in the relationship too long because she was “in love”.

And they all have the same thing in common.  Love trumped logic.  People around them had warned them of the heartache coming, yet they chose to ignore it.

So what is some counsel we could give our kids before they start dating?  How can we help them look at love differently?  What are some elements that can keep them from getting too far into the “love” relationship before they are deeply wounded?

  1. Have a discussion with your kids early about traits for a potentially good spouse for them. In other words, help them dream with reality.  This is an opportunity to talk about character qualities, faith, our kid’s strengths and what would compliment those.  It also can be a heartfelt discussion about our kid’s deficiencies and what might be a “nice to have” in order to make your marriage more successful.  i.e.  If your kid spends all his allowance as soon as he gets it, he might need to marry someone who is more thoughtful in how they spend money.  Be sure the conversation isn’t too serious and includes lots of heartfelt laughter.
  2. Let your kids know early that all relationships are not perfect. When you are struggling with a friend, be open about relationships being messy at times.  Same is true with your marriage.  Kids don’t need to know the details, but they need to see firsthand that two people can’t always agree on everything.  Obviously, if they get in a relationship with someone who always agrees with them, it is a certain red flag that something is off.
  3. Talk about future spouses being part of the entire family. If the person doesn’t “fit in”, what does that potentially do to family relationships in the future?
  4. Keep the lines of communication open as your kids begin to date. Be a safe haven for them to talk about their struggles with their significant other.  Offer up ways for them to respond to the other person in a healthy manner.
  5. Make sure you get to know the other person. Invite both of them to join you to watch a movie, have a snack, or play some games.
  6. As you see the “flaws” in the other person, ask permission to speak truth.  Our kids need to hear about the unhealthiness in their relationships even if they choose not to listen.  The earlier we can help them see reality, the less heartache if the relationship ends.
  7. Let your teen know they can’t “fix” the other person.  Sometimes our teens “need to be needed”.  Talk about how that can lead to an unhealthy relationship.
  8. Encourage your kids to surround themselves with community so that others can speak truth into the relationship.  Having a group of friends provides a safety net when they or the other person choose to “call it quits”.
  9. Warn them up front that it is easier to breakup when they start seeing signs that their values don’t line up rather than stay in the relationship too long.
  10. Explain that physical attraction will always defy logic. 

And when the inevitable heartache does come, be there to listen and help them grieve.  Ask questions to help them see where the relationship started going downhill and why it was a good thing that it ended.  Encourage them to let go of the relationship with respect to themselves and the other person.  And know that they will need lots of hugs and encouragement along the way as they start realizing their dream was just a fantasy.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

“Let go…and Let God”,


Teaching Our Kids To Date With Respect

I’ve been talking with lots of moms who have kids in the dating phase of life.  And it is amazing the amount of emotional impact these relationships are having. Whether your kids are barely teenagers or are ready to move into their 20’s, the dating game has changed significantly over the past decade with the advent of smartphones, Facebook, and Snapchat.  What used to be said face-to-face can be tweeted, shared, deleted, or copy and pasted in a nanosecond.

And heartache goes viral instead of staying between two people.

A “he said”/”she said” becomes a drama played out among people who now have access to all the data and the intimate details.

And judgment is made, lines are drawn, and what should have been a difficult face-to-face exchange now becomes the gossip that can cause massive emotional trauma rather than just another heartbreak.

If you are in this stage of life with your kids, you’ve probably done more emotional intervention than you expected as your kids play the dating game.  And if you are not quite there yet, brace yourself for the inevitable and parent ahead with your kids so they know what the rules of dating should be in order to respect themselves and the other person.

So what kind of things could we teach our kids?  How do we help them learn to respect themselves along with the other person?  Based on the nitty-gritty coming from moms who have been open to sharing the things they’ve encountered with their kids, here are some talking points that might help your teens seeing dating from a different perspective.

  1. Dating comes with one of two outcomes–either marriage or heartbreak.  Expect a few heartbreaks.
  2. Chances are you are dating someone else’s spouse.  Treat the other person with the same respect as you would hope your future spouse is being treated.
  3. Remember that when you enter a dating relationship, you will most likely give the other person your heart, just as they are giving you their heart.  Hold onto that heart as if it is precious.  That way when/if you choose to take your heart back and return the other person’s heart to them, there is minimal emotional damage for both of you.
  4. Know that a broken relationship will result in some amount of heartache.  Grieve the loss rather than pretend it didn’t happen.  It is normal to feel hurt, anger, and sadness.  Just be sure to not take it out on the other person.
  5. Most of us have hopes and dreams of what romantic love looks like.  We have expectations of the other person.  Know that your significant other will not be able to meet all your expectations.
  6. Keep in mind that early in the relationship you will see perfection because you haven’t had time to see the other person’s flaws.  Date with your eyes open and be aware of the other person’s tendencies that don’t line up with your value system.  Also get perspective from your parents.
  7. Keep two sets of friends–the ones you’ve had as a single person and add the other person’s friends.  If you drop your friends to engage exclusively with the other person’s friends, the breakup will be even harder because you will have no one to lean on.
  8. Define the relationship early and set appropriate boundaries.  Your kids see acceptable boundaries based on what their friends are doing.  If your kids are in junior high, let them know that it is okay to be special boy/girl friends; however, you need to help them define the boundaries.  The same is true with late teen dating relationships. How much can they be on the phone together?  Curfew? Double dating vs. single dating? What about going on vacation with the other person’s family?  Can they be in your house alone?  What is acceptable touching/kissing?  What is appropriate for texting?  The earlier these are defined, the more you can “remind” them rather than fight about the issues.
  9. Talk about Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, and any other social media.  Kids need to understand do’s and don’ts that are appropriate for their age.  An “in a relationship” that is posted and then unfriended can be devastating for our kids as well as pictures that have been taken off social platforms.  Suddenly seeing that they have been replaced with another friend of the opposite sex can devastate them.   
  10. Encourage your kids to text only what they would feel comfortable with all their friends reading. Recently a mom told me that her daughter had texted an apology to a significant other about something she had said and done that was inappropriate.  Shortly afterwards, her daughter accidentally received a text from the boy where he had copied and pasted the apology with a note that was supposed to go to his friends.  She was horrified that he had been sending her texts to other people.  Suddenly everyone close to him knew her darkest secret.  
  11. Talk about sex and help your kids know where the boundaries are.  Have them talk about them up front with the other person before they get in the heat of the moment, i.e. “I’m saving sex until marriage” or “I want to be friends; holding hands is okay, kissing isn’t.”  Teach them things to say to the other person if the other teen is pushing boundaries.  “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.  I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing this given where we are in the relationship.  Why don’t we go for a walk and cool things down.”
  12. When the time comes for a breakup, help your teen to think through what they plan to say and also let them know that the breakup needs to be in person. You can’t give a person back their heart over a text or Face Time.  Encourage them to explain the reason for the breakup, i.e. “I think you are a cool person, but I’m not feeling anything romantic” or “I like you a lot, but my priority right now needs to be ___ and I don’t have time to pour in to this relationship.” They should also state what the next steps should be, i.e. “If you text me, I will not be returning the texts”, or “I won’t be sitting with you at the games anymore”, or “I don’t want you hanging out with my friends.”  Let your teen understand that this needs to be done with kindness and not hostility even if the other person is making a scene.  Be kind but firm.
  13. Encourage your teen to forgive, especially if it is the other person who is initiating the breakup.

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses

In our teen’s life, they need to understand that the way they handle breakups does have impact on the other person in a huge way.  If they state their wishes, give reason for the breakup, and set boundaries for the future giving the other person their heart back with respect and dignity, chances are both kids can go into their next relationship in a healthy way.  Encourage your teens to treat the other person in the same manner they would like to be treated.  And encourage them to stand their ground and once the decision has been made that it is over–then they need to respect that and move on.

Helping our kids process a breakup can be a time of strengthening our relationship with our teens.  Our wisdom and perspective can help them grieve and move to the next phase of life if we are willing to engage in a respectful way.  Give them a hug and offer encouragement.  After all, they will be married all too soon.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Would you like to be in a better relationship with your kids where you can help them set boundaries in dating?  Would you like to deepen your relationship with God and your kids?  With All Due Respect isn’t just a book.  It’s deep thinking curriculum that will help you look at yourself as you parent.  It will give you insight as seen through the lens of moms who are farther ahead in the parenting arena.  Why not pick up your copy now or better yet, do it in a small group?

Don’t have a small group?  You can join our eCourse with women across the country that are learning how to connect on a deeper level.  There you will find support from your eCourse mentors as well as myself.  Hope to see you there.