New research indicates that young adults are longing for time and space with their parents to talk about love, and in my previous article, “Parents, Your Millennial Wants to Talk with You about Love,” we explored why it is so important (and so difficult!) for parents to talk with your young adult kids about romantic relationships. When parents are willing to open the door to intergenerational love dialogs, their kids have the opportunity to develop relational self-awareness. Relational self-awareness is the ability to work effectively with the complex feelings that romantic relationships stir in us, and it is the cornerstone of a healthy intimate relationship. Intergenerational love dialogs can help young adults create a solid foundation of relational self-awareness that guides good and healthy choices.
My graduate and undergraduate students write Love Template Interview Papers for which they need to have one or more intergenerational love dialogs with the people who raised them. Here, I am offering you a modified list of the questions that my students explore with their parents or other caregivers. Some are questions that you and your young adult kid can explore together, and some are questions that your kid can ask you.
Over the years my students and their families have experienced a wide range of emotional reactions to these questions– everything from sadness, anger, and frustration to joy, empathy, and compassion. The process can be delicate which is why an entire lesson of my book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, explores how to facilitate and process intergenerational love dialogs. The bottom line is: proceed with care and pause if you or your millennial feels overwhelmed with emotion.
Remember that there are no right or wrong answers. This is not about parents telling their kids what to do and what not to do. This is not about kids blaming their parents for their relationship problems. This is about families agreeing to suspend judgement in the service of illumination. This is about families letting go of the outcome and embracing a process—a process that can yield profound and healing understanding and compassion. This is about families embracing the kind of curiosity that deepens trust and connection.
Sample Questions for Millennials and Parents to Explore Together
- What have you learned along the way about dating?
- What have you learned along the way about marriage?
- What have you learned along the way about love?What have you learned along the way about handling differences and managing conflict in an intimate relationship?
- Do you believe in marriage?
- Do you think marriage is becoming obsolete?
- How have people’s attitudes about love changed from when you were a kid until today?
- What do you feel are the essential ingredients for success in a healthy intimate relationship? (Ask for details about why each of these ingredients is important)
- What is your philosophy about intimate relationships and what makes them work?
- Think about friends, family, or people you know who have particularly good relationships and think about those whose relationships do not seem as happy. What do you think are some differences between these two groups of relationships?
- Have you ever gone through a “bad” breakup? What helped you recover from it? What did your broken heart teach you about yourself? About love? About life?
- Do you see any common themes or patterns in your romantic relationships? If so, what?
- What have you learned from your previous relationships?
- If you are in a relationship now, how would you say your past relationships compare to your current relationship? Similarities? Differences?
- What is your life like today?
- What are your passions?
- What are you happy about?
- What are your fears?
- What would you like me to know about you?
Sample Questions for Millennials to Ask Their Parents
- What do you think I’ve learned from you about being in an intimate relationship?
- What do you want for me in my own intimate relationships?
- How do you see me as an intimate partner?
- Given what you know about me and about my relationships so far, what do you think I should watch out for in choosing a partner?
- Do you think that I should get married?
- What sort of person would be the best person for me to marry? Why?
- Do you think that if you had strong reservations about someone I was involved with or planning to marry that you should talk this over with me?
- How do you think your parents’ relationship influence how you entered into and conducted your relationship?
- What are three things that you liked or valued about your parents’ relationship that you wanted to carry on into your own life?
- What are three things that you disliked about your parents’ relationship that you wanted to leave behind?
- What information or ideas about intimate relationships would you have liked to have known when you were my age? How do you imagine this would have helped you?
Reflection Questions (you can explore these on your own or together, usually a few days later):
- How did this conversation change your feelings about marriage/intimate relationships?
- How did this conversation change the space between you?
- What was the conversation like for you?
- What was most difficult?
- What was most enjoyable?
- What were your “a-has”?
- What are your take-aways?
- What surprised you?