When 15-year-old Kavya’s (name changed) parents found out about her physical relationship with a boy two years her senior, all hell broke loose. Kavya was monitored on her way to school and back, and her phone was confiscated. A couple of reluctant friends and a clueless younger sibling doubled as trusted spies during school hours. Calls to her were passed on only under parental supervision. Access to the Internet was limited for academic purposes only. They relaxed the ‘curfew’ only when Kavya, affected by guilt, apologised profusely for her actions.
We definitely are not debating whether Kavya’s situation was handled appropriately, but are looking at the issue that led to the melee at home. Teen years are characterised by raging hormones and changing needs. It’s the time for pimples and facial hair, for butterfly-ridden stomachs and blush-filled cheeks. This is when teens fall head over heels in love. Or do they? Have they just mistaken physical urges for intimacy?
Why teens fall prey to lust?
Physical or sexual attraction is considered an important component of love. For teenagers, love automatically justifies as physical relationship. Given the brittle mindset, teens tend to overlook the pitfalls, and mistake lust for love. “Adolescents, when they think they are in love, start with infatuation but remain stuck there,” says counselling psychologist Karthik Lakshmanan.
Psychologists define love as a three-stage process. Interestingly, all 3 phases have a tinge of lust in them, albeit in varied proportions.
- Infatuation: The stage when you like someone, but may not know why you like them. Physical aspect dominates emotional quotient here.
- Romantic love: The stage where you reason out the why, miss their presence when they are not around and begin to have them affect several aspects of your life. Physical and emotional quotients have equal say here.
- Mature love: The stage when the relationship becomes stable, built on trust and security. Emotional quotient dominates physical quotient here.
Aarthi Mohan, mother of 16-year-old Manasa, says, “A couple of months ago, I found out that my daughter had feelings for another student from her class. A few undeleted messages on my phone was evidence enough. She seemed to think she was in love with the boy when they hardly knew each other. That got me worried.”
Elaborating futher Karthik adds, ”Today, teenagers want to act more like adults and demand the same level of autonomy and independence.”
The cause behind the effect
Access to ‘too much’ information
Popular culture, be it through movies, new media trends, advertisements, best-selling books, etc. overflows with explicit content on sexuality and pornography. To the uninitiated, a.k.a the eager-to-be-an-adult teen, this overload of information triggers unrestrained enthusiasm and half-baked knowledge.
It’s common knowledge that teenagers are most influenced by their peers, for better or for worse.
A group of hormone-driven teenagers is bound to be curious. There’s always someone in the group who knows a lot about the subject, and someone who knows very little. Endless discussions, elaborate fantasies and a certain amount of ‘competition’ is inevitable.
Teenagers go through a period of active growth, physically and emotionally. This is the period of self-discovery, be it intentional or accidental. They naturally move on to pornography and more. That’s when they start to become sexually aware, and with that comes the need to try more, know more.
Dos and Don’ts for parents
We all have come across different versions of Kavya’s story. Most of us are likely to agree that her parents did the right thing. Well, turns out, we couldn’t be more mistaken as such extreme measures only tend to antagonise the children more.
“Empathy is the key. Understand that all this is quite natural for their age. Parents should be friendly enough for the teens to be able to share everything. Unconditional regard and acceptance is what you need to win over your teen’s trust,” says Karthik.
Here are a few ways to handle the tricky situation:
- Do not ‘ban’: Denying access to the Internet or mobile phone is not going to help. Remember, your teen is resourceful; he is sure to find other means to get what he wants.
- Don’t punish, understand: Talk to your daughter about why she likes that boy. Try to understand her thought process. And then, give her your thoughts on the same.
- Sex education begins at home: Well, we all blame the education system for not being up to the mark with the concept of sex education. But, shouldn’t sex education begin at home? If you are uncomfortable, talk to a psychologist and gather tips on how to begin the talk.
- Do not pass judgements: Remember, you probably went through a similar phase, or knew friends who did. You might worry about your teen making the same mistakes. Rest assured, they’ll find their own set of mistakes to make. But until that time, stand by your child and help her through this confusing phase of life.
You may also like: