The ABCs of Love
Writer Julie Davidson asked Marti how kids’ understanding of relationships changes in their tweens and teens. Here is what was included in her Metroparent Magazine article titled The ABCs of Love: How kids’ understanding of relationships change as they grow:
The tweens and teens stage is a very awkward stage in a child’s life, and expressing love at this stage may become more direct. Marti Erickson, Ph.D., retired University of Minnesota professor and co-host of weekly parenting podcast “Mom Enough” says, “Depending on how much freedom the tweens have, they may arrange to meet and sit together at a school event, a park or a neighborhood coffee shop. Since many have smartphones, they may text or interact on social media or Facetime.”
Dr. Erickson emphasizes that parents have an important role in setting an example of positive affection with each other and respectful communication, even during times of conflict. They also need to monitor these early relationships carefully, trying to become acquainted with the kids their children are spending time with (including friendships and budding romantic relationships).
It’s important to connect with other parents, having open discussions about the common rules and values you are all trying to instill in the children as they move into their teens and adulthood. For example, when Dr. Erickson’s children were tweens and teens, her circle of parenting friends formed a network that agreed to alert each other if they saw anything of concern, including bad driving, underage drinking, inappropriate sexual behavior or other signs of unhealthy relationships. The parents explained to the children that they were united in looking out for them because they loved them and wanted them to be safe and healthy.
It also can be very helpful to monitor the movies and TV shows your children watch and to talk with them about what you see in the different types of relationships portrayed in the shows. Parents have an important role in helping children understand what a healthy relationship is, how to set appropriate boundaries and how to deal with difficult situations.
Tweens and teens need to have a clear set of rules and expectations. Welcome your child’s friends and romantic interests into your home so you can get a sense of how they interact together and how respectful the friends or romantic interests are toward you. Dr. Erickson adds, “With kids at any age — from the 3rd-grader with a first crush to the college student — ask them what they like about the person, moving beyond ‘he’s cute’ to understanding what his or her interests are, whether he has a good sense of humor, is a hard-working student, is compassionate.”
To learn how babies and toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children express their love, read the entire article here.