So, you've almost made it to the finish line. Your kid is going to graduate high school soon and venture off into the real world—paying their own bills, too, if you're lucky.
I've been there before myself—a dad excited for his child's next big adventure. But, as excited as I am, I'm at least as terrified that they aren't ready. Have you prepared them as well as you need to for a full-time job? For taking care of themselves? For dealing with relationships and—infinitely scarier—with sex?
Your kid may already be having sex. You may know it or not. Either way, once they're out of your house, you have far fewer chances to parent. With that in mind, take advantage of the time you have left to make sure they're ready to deal with whatever life throws at them.
Yes, thinking about the sexual culture your young adult offspring will be entering once they live on their own can cause a rush of panic.
How do you prepare them?
Start by being honest about what they are likely to see, giving good and bad examples. Instead of lecturing, focus on the opportunities they're going to have for making exciting decisions (some easier than others).
While this can be a serious conversation, you can make it engaging. Ask what dating advice they have received or have even "heard" through the grapevine. Share some of the crazy advice you received. This is an enlightening way to discuss how friends can share well-intentioned but very misguided suggestions.
They don't need you to tell them how to impress their dates, or to "play" the dating game.
They need you to tell them they don't need to try to impress their dating partner. They need you to tell them that trying to impress other people leads to misleading behavior from you. Remind your kids to be the same people on dates as they are with their friends and family.
They need you to tell them that a game is about two competitors going against each other. Turning a date into a game is a bad decision.
How do you engage them in this conversation?
Try this as a family:
Write down some ways friends can be bad influences on your child's dating life. Then work as a family to decide how your child can best block out those negative influences.
Here are five tips you can give your young adult so they can add these decision-making tools to their arsenal and use them, even when you as a parent are no longer physically there.
1. Actively choose the people you want and/or don't want to hang out with. You never owe anyone your time.
2. Choose who you want to be sexually intimate with and/or don't want to be sexually intimate with.
3. Know that no one has the right to violate your boundaries—ever. You always deserve a choice.
4. Know that an incapacitated person (through drugs, alcohol, or other) deserves to be treated with dignity and respect—just as all human beings do. Remember that you also deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (regardless of what choices you make along your journey).
5. Remind them that their parents will always be here. Always. While your kids won't want to disappoint you or feel judged, remind your kids that your love for them overrules everything else.