"What does he see in her?" 'How could she go out with him?
As our kids move through their "serious" dating years--as they prepare themselves to find and settle down with Ms or Mr Right--we may get to meet a lot of their romantic interests. The historical marriage age, after all, has moved up to 26 for women, 28 for men, and that could mean we'll witness either one or two long-term relationships or a lot of serial dating. Few of the "interests" will meet our criteria as worthy of our precious child's love and devotion. We inevitably set a high bar. But even so, some will fall far far below it. And the longer the relationship lasts, the more tempted we'll be to try to steer our child away from a mistake.
Not a good idea. As we all know, even if we can't help ourselves, negative input from mom and dad is likely to push two young people together. But what's a parent to do? I recently read some good tips on the subject in an AARP posting by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, who's been a leading voice in research on "emerging adulthood," and Elizabeth Fishel, a writer on family issues. Here are some highlights beyond the "keep your opinions to yourself" stuff:
"If you must say something, comment on what you observe, rather than on the person in question...such as: "He puts you down" or "She interrupts you." Sticking with observed behavior gives your son or daughter room to open up — or tell you to back off.
"Hold the judgments and...listen with empathy. We call this approach "friends with barriers," and it's all about the delicate balance between support and intrusion, between staying connected and being overly invested in your emerging adult's every move.
"Ask yourself what your child's relationship is providing that you're not seeing. Just considering this question reframes your perspective from criticism to greater understanding.