You just met your son’s college girlfriend. You already hate her.
Keep quiet. Young adults have a tendency to rebel, which means that one word from you could cement the relationship further and even drive your son away. Instead, try to keep an open mind. “If your son or daughter likes somebody, you should try really hard to find out why,” says Golland. “Check in with yourself and the reasons for your opinion.” If you simply don’t approve of this woman’s appearance or manners, or if you’re plain old jealous that he calls her every day and not you, then back off. “These are superficial concerns that will just annoy your son if you voice them. The only time you can speak up is if that person is mistreating your child,” says Rachel Sussman, a relationship therapist in New York City. Two signs that the relationship may be unhealthy: Your kid’s personality changes a lot in front of his girlfriend, or you witness her criticizing him. If and when these signals flare, use the phrase “I notice…” to bring up your concern, suggests Hemmen: “Say, ‘I notice that you’re being hard on yourself, and that’s new for you.’ Those words are nonjudgmental, and they show your kid that you are there for him.”
Your kids don’t want you dating, but you’re feeling ready.
Whether or not to date is an adult decision, and you are the only one who can make it. Be clear about that to your kids. But also acknowledge their feelings by saying, “It makes you uncomfortable that your mom is dating, and I understand that.” That way, they’ll know that they are being heard. “Also ask them what they are worried about,” says Kennedy-Moore. If your kids are concerned that you won’t have enough time for them, you can assure them that they’ll always be your priority. With younger kids, it helps to talk about the situation at their level. Tell them, “Mommy is going on a playdate,” suggests Golland. It sounds less threatening than a date, and it’s a term that they’ll understand. And don’t stress too much about being forthright when a relationship is still new. A simple “I’m going out for a bit” is explanation enough and takes the pressure off everyone.
Your 16-year-old daughter is always with her boyfriend.
Resist telling her what to do, which few children ever appreciate, and instead explain that in a solid relationship, each person has a life outside of it, suggests Madison: “That means friends, interests, and school activities.” Don’t target her boyfriend. You’ll just put her on the defensive that way. Rather, make the conversation about balance. Acknowledge that it’s normal to want to spend time with someone she likes a lot and that you want to help her figure out how to juggle her other responsibilities, says Hemmen. If they’re still attached at the hip despite your best lecture, or if you’re worried that they’re always alone together fooling around, invite her boyfriend to have dinner or go hiking with your family to help your daughter reconnect with other important people and activities. This will also “de-emphasize the physical aspect of their relationship,” says Kennedy-Moore.