Romantic involvement is a natural part of adolescent development, but how can you help your teen from losing their heart each time they fall in love?
A teenager in love is undergoing an overwhelming emotional experience. ‘Teenagers’ brains are not yet fully developed. They process information with the amygdalae, the parts of the brain essential for your ability to feel certain emotions and to perceive them in other people,’ say experts from the University of Rochester Medical Centre. This means that you must be the one maintaining perspective. That doesn’t mean pandering to every high and low, but don’t dismiss their experience or talk down to them. You don’t want to alienate your child during this rich and formative relationship process.
A good relationship
Children don’t automatically know what the building blocks of a good relationship are. Unless ‘respect’, ‘communication’, ‘boundaries’ and ‘honesty’ have been specifically spoken about, they’re not going to know how to identify them in their own relationships. Keep asking them questions about their interactions with their love interests. You don’t have to have a perfect track record for relationships yourself. Share what you’ve learnt about what works and doesn’t work, regardless of whether you are single, been divorced five times or married for 20 years.
No matter how uncomfortable it feels, you need to address the topic of sex, consent, responsibility around STIs and contraception when your teen heads into this stage of development. If you simply can’t, outsource the conversation to a family member or friend you trust, use educational books, videos or YouTube clips, or send your child to a GP or gynae. It is your responsibility to facilitate your child’s safe learning and independence, critical thinking and personal power, even in this area.
Set the rules
Establishing rules around dating is about setting boundaries for emotional and physical safety. Be clear about the age at which they’ll be allowed to go on dates, where they can go and what their curfews are. Meet the love interest, and (if things start to get serious), check in with the person’s parents. ‘Establish a relationship with the person in your child’s life,’ says Dr Dave Walsh of Mind Positive Parenting. ‘This can help if issues arise later on.’
Let them know that you are available
Your teen needs to know that you are 100% on their side; that they can turn to you no matter what, and without fear when they make mistakes – and mistakes are inevitable. You aren’t only their early guide through this wild and overwhelming learning curve in love and life, you are their safe space, so be a support and a comfort, to ensure that the lines of communication between you are always open.
[Image by Bence Halmosi via Unsplash]