Parent Tips – March 2017
Parent Tips: Responding to ‘Romance’ Issues with Little Kids
by Alison Blanchet, Family Honor Presenter
“Mary has a pretty big crush on Johnny*. She tried to kiss him today.” When my son’s first grade teacher told me this in the pick-up line at school, I realized two things. First, it was time to find a Family Honor Leading & Loving program so my husband and I could learn how to introduce the important principles of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in an age appropriate way. Second, we clearly couldn’t wait until he was in high school (or even until we went to a class) to begin talking about the right ways to interact with the opposite sex.
When my husband came home that night, I was pulling The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Theology of the Body off the shelf. “Jim, a girl tried to kiss Johnny at school today. I guess we start with a lecture on the creation of Adam and Eve, original sin, lust and concupiscence tonight and follow up with the sixth and ninth commandments at breakfast tomorrow morning before we send him back?”
Eying my stack of books, my husband set down his messenger bag and coffee cup. “I’ve got this,” he assured me. “Why don’t you go shopping?”
A few hours later I returned home to a list on the table that simply said: “Girls. 1) be gentle (no rough-housing.), 2) no holding hands. 3) Be nice.”
Jim explained that they had sat down for some ice cream and “man time”. When Johnny saw the list, he groaned and rolled his eyes, but Jim was undaunted. He briefly explained the three “rules” for girls like this. First of all, be gentle. Don’t push or hit a girl who is bothering him. Simply go tell a teacher or other trusted adult. Second (after hearing that several in his class were attempting to hold hands), Jim explained that signs of affection like holding hands or kissing are for married people, or grown-ups who are thinking of getting married. If a girl wants to hold his hand, Johnny now knows he can just say “no thank you” and say his parents don’ let him.
Finally, Jim explained, even though girls can seem different and strange sometimes, it’s important to be nice.
“Is that all?” Johnny asked. “Yep,” said Jim. “Let’s play Connect Four.”
After hearing about this conversation, I realized that Jim’s approach was much more digestible than the lecture I was about to give. Johnny didn’t need to understand everything about the opposite sex that night- he just needed a few concrete ways to handle some of the challenges he was beginning to encounter.
For the next several weeks we’ve revisited these “rules” about girls and they seem to be just enough for his first grade mind and heart.
I knew we would have to talk to Johnny about girls eventually, but I was definitely caught off-guard when it happened in the second quarter of first grade. Here are a few tips I learned from my husband’s approach:
1. Keep calm and start small.
The three basic rules were plenty for Johnny to remember and plenty for us to revisit for future conversations. I was ready to deliver the whole Theology of the Body, my husband wisely kept their first chat to ten minutes.
2. Keep things casual.
Jim also acted totally nonchalant, pairing the conversation with ice cream and Johnny’s favorite board game so he knew he wasn’t in trouble, and so he knew he could keep bringing up questions or comments about girls – or anything else he heard in school – any time.
3. Keep things positive.
Finally, Jim kept his conversation positive. He didn’t say girls were bad, weird or had cooties. He just confirmed what Johnny was already realizing: girls are different.
4. Be a good role model.
Jim regularly affirms these differences to Johnny by complimenting me in front of him, highlighting the ways my talents like cooking or finding lost shoes help make the household run smoothly. I, in turn, compliment the ways Jim and Johnny mop the floors or fold the laundry. Jim and I try to show Johnny that we are here to help each other.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Talking to Johnny about girls seemed like a huge undertaking to me, but watching my husband I’ve realized that we just need to take it one question at a time and stay approachable, loving and positive.
*For privacy purposes, we have not used the child’s real name.
Here are a few sources that can help parents of younger children:
Family Honor’s Leading & Loving program
Program sessions include topics like: How do I answer my child’s questions with a sense of awe and wonder for God’s gift of s*x? How do I cultivate a joyful family life? How do I respond to my young child’s questions in an age-appropriate way? For more information, go to:
Dr. Ray Guarendi
A Catholic psychologist who answers questions on his daily call-in show. Podcast available on iTunes. http://drray.com
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