Do you remember your first crush? The first time you caught sight of a certain girl at school and had that heart-boom moment? Remember the roller-coaster of emotions, fears of rejection, and just… well… realising you had no idea what you were doing?
Teen life is hard enough for our kids and as parents we want to ensure we have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in their lives.
Here’s how to help your teenager cope with navigating the choppy waters of romance.
Teenage brains, hormones and first love
Teen feelings and relationships can be more intense than for adults. This is because adolescents are highly attuned to what others might be thinking of them, but also because the teenage brain is ‘a work in progress’. Falling in love is a big event at any age, but for teenagers their feelings are even more difficult to manage.
Hormonal changes play a huge part in the intense feelings of sexual attraction and falling in love. Testosterone and oestrogen cause heightened sexual urges, while other hormones are implicated in attachment and bonding.
During puberty, the volume of these hormones in children’s bodies rises dramatically and can trigger more negative and unpredictable moods. Feelings such as being ‘in love ’or ‘in lust ’are likely to be confused and confusing, even overwhelming for some.
Falling in love takes some getting used to for kids, with all the different emotions, mood swings, and desires. Nevertheless, through their romantic relationships, adolescents grow into adults as they learn about themselves and other people, gain experience in how to manage these feelings and develop the skills of intimacy.
How to help your teen
The relationships in our teenagers lives can be difficult for us parents to know how to approach. Here’s some tips on how you can understand and talk to your child:
It’s helpful to step out of your comfort zone as a parent. Teens require you to be open-minded. This creates an emotionally safe space for discussion, sharing and problem-solving. Talk to them about infatuation, romance and sexual attraction.
Familiarise yourself with their significant others
Invite your child’s partners to your home often, and spend time getting to know them.
Reinforce healthy boundaries
Define clear boundaries of behaviour for your child. Make your expectations clear and emphasise your family values.
Make the rules clear
Set clear rules about outings with boyfriends/ girlfriends – who they are going out with, where to, and most importantly when they will return. Allow your child to negotiate fairly with you. Clearly state the non-negotiable rules.
Rule-breaking results in consequences
Be firm in enforcing the consequences of breaking rules.You could even let your child decide on the consequences they will have to face if they break them.
Avoid harsh punishments
They only serve to make the child even less connected with you and more dependent on their romantic relationship for comfort.
Show an interest in their relationships
Talk to your child when you find them getting close to a particular person and ask about what draws them to each other.
Be warm and open
Maintain a trusting and warm relationship with your child, as then it leaves little room for lies and sneaky plans. In fact, a strong parent-child relationship meets the child’s need for unconditional acceptance, attention, recognition, and appreciation. If these needs are not met at home, the child will easily respond to anyone else who makes them feel wanted and important. Try to avoid being critical of their friends/ romantic partners and aim to be forgiving of your child’s mistakes.
Respect is key
Teach your child about self-respect and their right to be respected; and why it’s important to pull away from a disrespectful relationship.