Don't freak out!
"Mom, I have a boyfriend!" Five words that can strike fear into any parent's heart. Not because we don't want our kids to experience love, but because we don't ever want to see our teens get hurt. Let's face it, love is messy. It's a rollercoaster ride of emotions that range from bliss to despair.
As adults, we have been there. We have navigated the battlefield of love and dating. We have been hurt and we have found great joy. We know the signals to watch for and we can see heartbreak coming a mile away. We want to spare our teen from that entire experience, but should we?
If you are a parent trying to figure out how to face your teen dating and falling in love, here are the 5 things you can do support your teen and set boundaries for your home.
1. Invite the boyfriend/girlfriend over often.
You should get to know who your teen is spending their time with. Ask them fun questions. Ask them about their grades. Ask them what they do for hobbies. Ask them about their parents. Find out what makes them tick.
By getting to know the boyfriend better, you will better be able to deal with any stressful situation that comes along. If your teen is talking to you about not getting to spend more time with her boyfriend, remind her about her clubs and sports teams.
Talk about how important it is to honor your commitments to a team, even when you have a new relationship. If the boyfriend has significant commitments in his life, you know that he's going to have some semblance of balance in their lives.
2. Have "the talk" with your teen.
OK, talking about sex is a tough conversation. We worry that by having the talk we somehow condone our kids having sex. That is absolutely not true.
We need to talk to our kids about sex and relationships and the necessary precautions that they need to take. Whether they act on it or not isn't the issue. The issue is your kid having information to make educated decisions if and when they do decide to move their relationship into a physical one.
3. Listen without judging or freaking out.
I know, it's not easy. When our kids are confiding in us and telling us about the choices they are making, we just want to jump in and tell them to change or choose differently, redirecting their focus when we feel like they are too focused on one person.
You will want to speak up to give your opinion. Do your very best to simply listen and take it all in. Pause. Consider and ask them if they want you to tell them what you're thinking and feeling. Let your teen direct that conversation.
4. Try and put yourself in their shoes.
Empathy goes a very long way in developing a deeper understanding of your teen. Dig deep and go back to when you fell in love for the first time as a teenager or young adult. Try to recall those crazy feelings and how much you wanted to spend time with your new boyfriend.
When you can truly come from a place of understanding, it's much easier to offer up your best parenting advice without sounding like a parent who is trying to "ruin" your teen's life.
5. Set boundaries.
It is perfectly OK for you to set the boundaries in your home. Set your rules and expect your teen to follow them! Be clear and concise about what you expect from both of them. Time curfews, where they will hang out, how long the boyfriend/girlfriend can stay on any given visit, how many days a week and the expectations of chores and homework.
Ask your teen to repeat the expectations back to you or have a written agreement. Agree on reasonable consequences for breaking the rules and stick to your guns. This is your home and you get to set the rules.
True love is an amazing experience. Love makes us do crazy things. It also gives us a deeper, stronger belief in ourselves. Helping your teen navigate falling in love in a healthy environment is one of the best things you can do for them. Teach them how they deserve a significant other to treat them and that they have an intrinsic worth. Help them to remember that you are always a safe place to come to when they need support.
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