How Do I Talk To My Daughter About Boys?
Talking to your daughter about boys and dating is a conversation that should begin long before she is of dating age and is ongoing. In other words, this isn’t a one-and-done conversation you have when she starts high school.
So if you have a young daughter, you can start now with these tips. And if you’ve waited until she’s in middle or high school, it isn’t too late. You can probably get a few ideas from these tips as well.
- Encourage healthy friendships with boys. It may seem cute to tease a five-year-old girl about her boyfriend – the little boy she plays with on the playground at school. But it’s important for kids to learn at a young age what healthy friendships with both genders look like. Every boy isn’t a potential boyfriend, and her value isn’t only as a girlfriend. Before teenage girls have romantic relationships, it’s important that they’ve had years of experience building solid friendships with boys, based on respect and common interests and having fun.
- Compliment your daughter about her strengths. It’s OK to compliment your daughter about her appearance because it’s important for girls to feel beautiful. But we should also compliment our daughters about their strengths and abilities so they feel confident. Confident girls can better protect boundaries and have high expectations for how they should be treated. Which brings us to our next point . . .
- Teach your daughter to set healthy boundaries. She doesn’t want to hug her uncle goodbye? OK. She doesn’t have to. She can give him a respectful wave or fun high-five. It’s good for her to set boundaries for her own body and personal space. Is that little boy at school pulling her ponytail or chasing her when she doesn’t want to be chased? Teach her to kindly and firmly ask him to stop, then ask a grown-up for help if he doesn’t. We can teach boundaries to kids from a very young age when we teach them to respect other people’s things, to ask before touching someone else, to verbalize their feelings or wants, and to say no when people are asking or pressuring them to do things they don’t want to do.
- Ask questions. And listen with as little judgment as you can. Obviously, you’re the parent and your job is to offer guidance, but pretty much every parent knows the tendency to turn conversations into what we call teachable moments and what our kids call lectures. So ask some open-ended questions and listen to their answers. Maybe you can use a movie or TV show or a conversation you overhear them having with a friend as a springboard for discussion.
- Honor your daughter’s feelings/emotions. It’s easy for us to trivialize the crush our 11-year-old girl has on that boy in math class because we know this may well be the first of many crushes. But for your daughter, this is serious and her emotions are big – and very real – emotions. Nothing shuts down the line of communication between a tween or teen and her parents quite like feeling belittled or invalidated.
- Talk about sex, but not only about sex. Yes, talk about sex and sexual health, but also talk about the emotions that go along with it. Though it’s important to talk about things like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), it’s also really important to talk about emotional intimacy or how to start a conversation with a cute boy or how to handle it if the boy you like doesn’t like you back. If your daughter really wants to talk about how she feels jealous that the boy she likes sometimes pays more attention to her best friend, it might freak her out if you start talking about syphilis and genital warts. For the most part, open the conversation in a non-threatening way, and then let your daughter guide the conversation. Follow her cues.
- Set rules and boundaries of your own. Kids might like to complain about their parents’ strict rules, but they really do like having boundaries and clear expectations. It makes them feel safe. Kids also usually need their parents to be the bad guy because they often don’t quite have the skillset to stand firm in saying no or in making wise choices with no limits from Mom or Dad. So go ahead and install the filter on the Internet browser, spot-check their phones, set parental controls on their phones, keep tabs on their social media. So much of tween and teen romance happens on social media and via text. You aren’t being nosy when you check up on your kid; you’re being a good parent. And if you see red flags, like text messages that are sexually inappropriate or a boy whose texts seem almost stalkerish or controlling, you can talk about those with your daughter and reinforce the things you taught her about setting boundaries, having confidence, and asking for help.
- Finally, Assure her that her value doesn’t come from what others think about her. It’s easy for teenage girls – heck, for all women – to believe the lie that we’re only valuable if we’re half of a couple or if guys are asking us out. Model with your own talk about yourself and others that our value doesn’t come from what others think about us. Teach your daughter to love herself. Crushes, and even boyfriends, will come and go, but your daughter will live with herself forever, so she needs to love herself. Loving and valuing herself is a good start to every healthy relationship she will have in her life.