Boyfriends and Girlfriends
Sooner or later your teen is going to discover the opposite sex. If you’re lucky, it will come later, so they can enjoy childhood a little while longer, but it will inevitably come.
And with it there will be all the problems of rejection, first love, romance, break up and finding someone new. It’s an adventure, but for them one that’s especially steeped in emotion as their hormones fly all over the place.
It will also be a time of sexual exploration, and that can be especially worrying for a parent – particularly the parents of a teen girl.
How do you cope with it all?
The first serious boyfriend or girlfriend is a major milestone in life, one they’ll remember all through the years, usually with fondness. But it can also be a traumatic time, especially if they’re part of a couple that constantly breaks up and gets back together.
All too often, advice is the last thing they want. Each generation thinks it’s invented love and romance, and that parents simply can’t understand – when you can, and all too well, of course. The best course is to offer advice only if they come to you, but be open to discuss what’s happening in their romantic lives, especially during the bad times.
A break up can seem devastating, especially if the couple has been going out for a while (and remember that to teens, six months can seem like an eternity). Be there to console, to listen, and simply generally offer comfort. Your teen will be down and need the closeness of family even more than before.
For all they love new things, teens can be great traditionalists in some ways. There are exceptions, of course, but usually boys ask girls out, and not the other way round. But some girls won’t be asked, some boys won’t have the courage to ask, and others will be rejected.
If there’s trauma in romance, there’s even more in no romance. The teens feel like failures if they’re not asked, and failures if they ask and are rejected. The problem is that there’s nothing practical you can do to help them, and you need to tread very carefully so you don’t bruise already fragile egos. Be supportive, and give them lots of positive comments about their appearance, attitude and skills. It won’t make up for them not having someone, but it might take their minds off it for a while.
Teens and sex…it’s a minefield. These days they receive the lectures in school from an early age. But there’s a big gap between theory and practice, and that’s where you come in. You might not be able to control when your teen starts experimenting with sex, but you can give them encouragement not to begin too early, to start with someone they really like, and, above all, to be sensible about it and use protection.
The talks might be embarrassing for both you and your teen, but they’re worthwhile if they prevent pregnancy, disease and heartbreak.
On a practical level, you can make sure that your teen – whether boy or girl – carries condoms, and in a gentle way try to drill it into them that they use them. Teens don’t have the experience to believe bad things can happen to them; remind them that they do.
Some parents will preach abstinence, and some teens will follow that. It’s fine. What’s important is that they start when they’re ready, not because of peer pressure or because sex seems so casual these days. You can try and ensure that they don’t feel exploited. The more confident they are in themselves, the less likely they’ll be to have sex too early.