5 Tips For Parents of College Kids Who Are Dating
Our college student thinks she may have finally met ‘the love of her life’ this semester and has already invited him to a number of family functions. To be perfectly honest, we are more anxious than thrilled. Do I just hide my feelings, or is it better to be truthful about what I see as a possible mistake in the making?
Speak or Hold My Peace
Dear Speak or Hold My Peace,
This is a tough question, and always a difficult one to answer. Before you “speak or hold your peace,” you may want to take a few deep breaths, process your emotions, gather your thoughts, and ponder your other options. According to Google, here are the top five most popular “other” options:
- Hire a private detective
- Change your phone number
- Start scream therapy
- Re-consider the monastery idea
- Go on that two-year get-away you promised yourself many years ago.
If those options have all been used, perhaps when your child was going through puberty, then here are some other ideas to consider.
- Remain hopeful, knowing God is in control. Be ready to offer advice, but only when asked. Tread carefully here because you cannot choose for them, and you may end up regretting speaking your mind prematurely. Likewise, avoid the urge to try to persuade, change or control them. This is a time of exploration and learning new things, and a time for us parents to exercise our trust and faith in God’s leading and protecting. Biola offers some great resources in this area. Check out the resources—like blogs, podcasts, and events—at cmr.biola.edu, and share these with your student.
- If you are worried about broken relationships and helping them avoid the potential of future pain, be encouraged – there is much to be hopeful about the overall state of marriage in the U.S. The divorce rate is not 50%, and in fact is probably closer to 25%. Premarital counseling has been shown to lower the divorce rate by another 30%. In the book, The Good News About Marriage, author Shaunti Feldhahn provides even more encouraging news about the state of marriage and relationships. So take heart, you are not alone, and not without hope. Over 80% of all college-aged adults say that marriage is an important part of their life plans, and when done well, such relationships bring us great joy and God great glory.
- Our relationships are always growing and changing, so take heart and know that while adding new people to the mix may complicate things, it can also lead to some amazing growth, new insights, and some fun new connections. Our advice is to remain invested in your child’s relationships, knowing that many of these “love interests” can and do change. Stay interested in your child and their choices, and be intentional in getting to know the person they are dating. Here is a practical thing you can do: Buy a great book to consider reading together—we recommend True Love Dates by Debra Fileta.
- Avoid getting too emotionally invested in their relationships too early. Be careful not to fall in love too quickly with their date, as these tend to change, and then parents end up feeling sad and disappointed. (This will also help you avoid awkward situations like a family we know whose “forever wedding photos” include their nephew’s ex-girlfriend in them, and regret not drawing stronger boundaries.) Likewise, be careful not to judge too quickly. Sometimes our first impressions are wrong. Again, sometimes your student needs to figure out their likes and dislikes, the things that are most important to them, and who they are most compatible with. This can result in them dating people very different from them, and is a necessary time of learning, growing and experience for them.
- Finally, do not stop praying for them. You have probably been praying for this child for many years, and now you get to see God’s faithfulness at work. While there will often be difficult times and some failed relationships, He never leaves us and has your child in His loving hands. I often turn to favorite promises like Jeremiah 29:11,“For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”
Could you use some more thoughts about this? Tune in to the Center for Marriage and Relationships blog as Chris expands on this topic in just a few weeks!
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.