OMG! My Teen is in a Relationship

Teen relationships rarely last long - Parenting by ZenParent

In Indian families, very few children tell their parents that they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Most often its revealed by a seemingly well-meaning neighbor whose child is in the same school, irate teachers or School Management. Earlier this year, the incident of the NPS student who jumped to her death when her mother was summoned to the school for a complaint of “misbehavior” was such a tragedy. Or the infamous Arushi murder by her parents because of her apparent relationship with her household. These incidents beg the question of how we can deal with such situations without freaking out.

All teens have crushes. Many teens have relationships. As parents do we stop them, or do we allow them to go ahead? This dilemma haunts most Indian parents. No matter how evolved we think we are there is always a sinking feeling when your child is just 14 or 15 and is already in a relationship. It’s not our culture you see!  One thing I know for sure – forbidding them from having a relationship will only make them more determined to do so even if it means alienating the parents. At that point parents often throw these lines at their teenager:

  • You love him/her more than us.
  • You are not old enough for this ( I agree)
  • You will not leave the house by yourself
  • What will people think

You should save your breath. None of this will make sense to a teenager in the first flush of a crush. I prefer not to use the word love here because teenage relationships almost always do not last more than a few months. Time and again I have observed that teenagers who have relationships usually break up in a few months especially if they are within the 13 -16 age group. Instead here is what you can do –

  • Sit them down and ask them why they feel this relationship is important for them. It might just be a passing phase. Opposing it might only make the teenager more fanatic.
  • Explain to them that casual relationships can bring heartbreak and emotional distress with them. Discuss examples you may have seen around you.
  • Inform them that relationships may pressure them to behave in ways that make them uncomfortable.
  • Leave the communication channel open. Children usually confide on one parent or an aunt/uncle. Depression, angry outbursts and unexplained physical ailments must be followed up once the child is calm and ready to talk. Bombarding the child with questions or threatening them when they are not inclined to talk to you will only drive them further away from you.
  • Ensure that the family socializes together. Today’s trend is for parents to do their own thing while the teenager is out with friends. This creates a communication gap. Socializing together helps the parents and kids to bond with the child knowing that there can be fun times with the parents too. This goes a long way in the child not seeking other diversions.
  • Be aware that crushes are very normal. All children have them. We did too as kids. Speak to them about this and tell them that is absolutely normal. However they need not act on it because crushes do not last.
  • Divert their attention to a fun hobby that takes up much of their spare time and energy. Teenagers who have a hobby that they are passionate often have very little passion left for anything else!
  • Finally talk to them about the impact it could have on their studies. I have told my daughter that I am fine with her having a boy friend at 21. Once she has figured out what she wants to do with her life. Of course this is all said in theory, if the time comes I will have to face up to it and accept it.
  • If nothing works and you see your child actually feeling good and enjoying his or her friendship status just go with it. However make sure you are there for them when the heartbreak happens, without being judgemental about it.

Infatuation is a normal part of every teen's life - ZenParent

There is a rationale being why relationships formed during teenage rarely last. The human brain is fully grown only by the age of 24. Many changes in their thinking and behavior are bound to happen during this phase. Depending on the interests that are picked up during this time the youngsters can naturally grow apart and find very little in common.

Finally, remember that the objective is to make the teenager aware of the consequences of relationships when academic stress is also at its peak. Nevertheless the decision to have a relationship or not will always be the teen’s decision. Though many parents feel squeamish about it, this is also the time to talk about pre-marital sex and the importance of taking precautions.

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