This week, we present the 2nd week in our series of tips on to talk to your kids about relationships. Last week we talked about kids who are 3-6 years old. Today we’re talking about kids ages 7-10. What’s the best way to impart good relationship skills to kids of this age as they move through elementary school and approach middle school? Read on for some ideas…
Model Behaviors: Before they ask you what to do, they look at your behavior and see if they can figure out how it’s done. This applies to relationships too. Model good communication, constructive disagreements and respectful interactions in all your relationships. They will follow.
Keep It Going: Any conversation about relationships should be ongoing. Know that you aren’t going to cover all the issues in one sitting. Don’t be afraid to revisit topics of conversation. Something they mentioned last time you talked can be a great jumping off point for the next conversation, plus it shows that you listen.
Define Terms: How you define terms like dating, boyfriend, girlfriend and relationship may be very different than how they define it. Compare your definition to theirs during the conversation. Remember, no one is right or wrong, you’re just making sure you are both on the same page.
Strategize: What are some ways they can remove themselves from uncomfortable situations? Brainstorm together. Practice refusal skills – from saying no to finding excuses to leave difficult situations. Identify trusted adults in their lives. Don’t be offended if you’re not at the top of their list. Remember, it’s important that they feel connected to multiple safe adults.
What Do They Want: Encourage them to start thinking about what they want in their relationships. We often push children to include everyone and be nice. While those traits are important, you also want them to be aware that they have choices about who they let into their lives and how people treat them.
Don’t Be Vague: Infuse your family’s values into this conversation. Don’t answer a question with “because I said so.” Explain why your family feels a certain way or does certain things. Consider the messages you want them to carry out into the world.
Define Boundaries: Personal boundaries help us define expectations about how we want to be treated. Remind them that they have the right to communicate how they want to be treated by others. Encourage them to communicate their personal boundaries by letting others know when those boundaries are crossed. They should also learn that everyone has different personal boundaries. A friend’s boundaries may be different than their own.
Emphasize The Good Stuff: Teach that in any healthy relationship there is respect, safety, support, individuality, equality, acceptance, honesty and trust. Healthy relationships should also be fun. Use these principles to encourage emotional awareness. Teach them how to express their feelings, both good and bad, appropriately.