Teen love is natural. As parents, ensure that your protective instinct doesn’t interfere with the way you deal with your teenager and her relationships. Learn how to handle such sensitive situations.
By Arundhati Swamy
The recent shocking news of a 15-year-old and her 19-year-old boyfriend murdering the girl’s father in Bangalore, has got everyone talking and discussing about adolescence and parenting. The duo claim that they resorted to the crime, because the father disapproved their romantic relationship. Apparently, her dad had belted her and confiscated her phone, when he became aware of their closeness. The girl allegedly felt that she wanted her freedom back, and thus she and her boyfriend plotted to murder her father and subsequently executed the act.
While this is an extreme case, it’s not the first one of its kind that has come to light. From time to time, there have been other media reports of similar gruesome crimes for similar reasons.
However, the recent news in Bangalore has sparked an open discussion on digital platforms and neighbourhood gossip, around the topic of romantic relationships among adolescents and how parents struggle to deal and cope with it.
In fact, we often hear of parents handling 'young love' in ways that don’t really help the situation but worsen it. Hence, we need to understand that our children are growing up and learn how to work with them. And teen love is natural and a part of this growing up.
You can start by asking yourself how old you were when you had your first crush? Your child is unlikely to be different. And you might think that your teen is too young to know how to handle being in love, which is true, but that’s why it’s important for you to understand and work along with your teen.
Here is how you can show your teen that you are on her team:
The relationship that a parent and teenager share, often turn into a 'parent vs teenager' one, and therein lies the crux of the whole problem. Here’s what happens when we see our teens as adversaries when things go ‘wrong’:
It’s very unfortunate that these are the reactions of many parents, that too at a time when a teen needs a supportive and understanding parent more than ever.
So, here’s how you can learn to accept, understand and communicate with your child in ‘teen love’ situations.
It is so difficult for parents to come to terms with the reality of this situation and accept it. After the initial shock and possible denial of the situation, you must take time to:
As parents, you we must make efforts to learn about the changes that occur during puberty. We are familiar with the physical changes but not too familiar about the very crucial social and emotional changes. You can learn how to understand your teen’s feelings and emotions.
As a result of significant changes happening in the brain of your teen, he experiences heightened emotions, seeks acceptance and belonging among friends, searches for new experiences and explores his individuality through his thoughts and ideas. The drive to discover self and to create a unique identity, becomes an important preoccupation for teens.
Childhood dependence on parents soon give way to a search for freedom and independence during the teen years. While you need to take a step back, you must continue to build your relationship with your teen and strengthen the bond you both share. You can do this by:
Uncomfortable as you may be about love and relationships, you must make the effort to step out of your comfort zone as a parent. Teens require their parents to be open-minded. This way it helps them to listen more willingly to their parents’ concerns and creates an emotionally safe space for discussion, sharing and problem solving.
Communication revolves around choice of words, tone of voice, body language, listening to understand, respect for each other, a willingness to apologise, and setting aside biases.
Not all parents feel confident to bring up the topic of love and romantic relationships with their children. Even so, it’s best to make the effort, else children may be influenced by the media and the opinions of their peers.
It’s easier to talk about these sensitive topics in a general context. There are enough stories available in the media and in real life. Use them to open discussions, ask your teen for opinions, thoughts and ideas about a story. Encourage open debates and avoid the arguments.
The exchange of ideas on love and relationships offer teens many perspectives. They can use these perspectives to make important decisions for themselves. Parents must therefore facilitate open conversations, reserve judgements and be able to express their views without imposing them, as well as listen intently to their teen’s views.
Changes in adolescence are a natural process of a child's growth and development. They have a purpose, but we need to view this stage as a time of opportunities to be able to see that purpose more clearly – to get to know and understand oneself, likes and dislikes, what ideas are exciting, forming individual opinions based upon a deeper understanding of self.
Your child is going through a period of intense self-discovery and you must facilitate that process in the best way you can. A belief that parenting an adolescent is only tough and challenging, simply robs you of your ability to support your teen child. Take heed!
About the expert:
Written by Arundhati Swamy on 20 August 2019.
Arundhati Swamy is a family counsellor and Head of the Parent Engagement Program at ParentCircle.
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