My partner and I have four kids. Our boys are 17 and 13. Our girls are 13 and 11.
And yes, absolutely we’re giving dating advice to our kids.
The moment your kids hit puberty – and possibly even before then – parents need to begin talking about what to look out for in prospective partners.
We need to guide them in making a choice that will work for them, and for your family’s moral compass.
By opening the conversation about suitable partners – and unsuitable ones – we help reduce the risk of our kids getting hurt by toxic people who can emotionally or physically harm them.
There are plenty of screwed-up people out there – and some of them are teenagers! We learned from experience the damage a toxic person can do to a family a couple of years back.
Since then, we’ve opened the conversation with all our kids about what makes a good partner, and our kids are reaping the benefits of our knowledge, experience, wisdom, and opinions.
Why you should give dating advice to your kids
Kids need to be able to recognize a good person when they meet them. And a bad one. Good people respect who your kid is, respect your child’s morals, background and culture, and respect who your child chooses to be. They do not damage, bully or abuse your child in any way.
Kid also need to be able to recognize “damaged goods”. Kids also need to be able to recognize bullies and abusers when they meet them. This isn’t always easy. By pointing out toxic relationships on television and in movies when you see them, your kids can learn to recognize toxic relationships in real life.
Kids need to be able to recognize “red flags” in relationships. Is their girlfriend or boyfriend a bully? Are they overly-controlling? Do they belittle them, or put them down? Do they ask for money and gifts continually? Do they physically abuse them? Remember, boys can be abused in relationships too – not just girls.
Kids need to learn what is unacceptable. I emphasize with my kids that I never dated a smoker, an alcoholic, a gambler, a drug addict or an abuser. I told my kids why, explaining how these behaviors trash lives and impoverish families.
Boundaries are necessary. Help your kids set their own boundaries on what is not acceptable in prospective partners. They need to figure out what is not acceptable in a partner, because that’s just as important as figuring out what they want.
Kids need help in navigating the dating world. They need to know that having certain standards and boundaries is fine, and you support that. They need to know not all people are good people or worthy of their attention and time, and that some people are definitely not okay to date, or even associate with.
Some boundaries your kids might choose to set
Smokers, alcoholics, gamblers, drug addicts. These behaviors are not okay, and are not welcome in prospective partners.
Single parents. Where is the person’s loyalty going to be? Not with your kid, that’s for sure! From day one they’ll be financially supporting someone else’s child. Exception: if both parties are older and single parents, then things can work out as equal.
Alternative religions. Look for a partner who shares the same faith, political and cultural background as yourself. Life is hard enough, without making it more difficult.
Pseudo-disabilities. Untested gluten-free or lactose-intolerant snowflakes, non-binary genders, trans-people, polygamous persons who want to date more than one person at the same time… the world is full of narcissists and difficult people that your child does NOT need in their life.
Professional victims. People who claim the world is against them, and everything that ever happened to them is someone else’s fault. If your kid ends up with them, everything will soon be your kid’s fault.
Ultra-high maintenance types. If they spend more money on their wardrobe each year than the typical person spends on rent, your child might choose to run and not look back.
Morbidly obese. If they’re morbidly obese and below the age of 25, they’re likely only going to get bigger, and even more unhealthy. Does your child need a lifetime of medical bills and medical issues?
Bad habits. Anyone whose life is a mess of bad habits should probably be avoided. These can include laziness, messiness and a general bad attitude.
Mentally ill. If they’ve spent time locked up for any mental reason, or they’re on drugs for depression. Doesn’t your child deserve someone who is mentally well?
Anyone 10+ years older or younger. A large age gap can create difficulty in connection and understanding.
Nothing in common. If your child has nothing in common with the person, why are they dating them?
Criminal record. People with criminal records at a young age are a really dubious prospect for your child. Their record can – and will – negatively affect employment prospects for the rest of their life.
Look for healthy, happy, well-adjusted people
The majority of people are happy, healthy and well-adjusted. Most younger people are good, suitable prospective partners with few issues.
Teach your child they do not have to settle for anything less than someone who will make them happy, content and fulfilled. Second-best will not make their life happy – don’t settle for it.