It is the subject of countless movies, endless numbers of books and ballads, and the cause of so much parental concern; a teenager’s first love. Though it is certainly an exciting time for the teenage daughter or son, this time in a child’s life is quite meaningful for parents as well. To ease the ride on the emotional roller coaster of teenage romance, we have enlisted the help of Barbara Greenberg, clinical psychologist and co-author of Teenage as a Second Language – A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual, who offers parents 5 tips for getting themselves (and their teens) through this thrilling and tumultuous time.
Dr. Greenberg first and foremost reminds parents to “be respectful of their child’s feelings even though they know that it’s “puppy love” and not likely to last a lifetime.” She explains that by showing your son or daughter that you are "sympathetic to and understanding of their feelings, he or she will be far more likely to open up to you about the relationship and ask for your opinions and input as well."
“Do not embarrass the teen about his/her feelings,” says Dr. Greenberg. Though it can be tempting to playfully tease your child or bring up the “boyfriend/girlfriend” to relatives or friends, doing so will definitely make him or her less willing to speak with you about the relationship or their own feelings.
Next, advises Dr. Greenberg, parents should “make sure that the teen doesn’t get too obsessive and give up his/her friends.” Without being too overbearing, it is important to observe your child to ensure that the relationship is a healthy one. Also, Dr. Greenberg reminds parents to deliver any advice “non-judgmentally and without strong emotion,” as doing so will make your teenager far “less likely to turn to you for advice in the future.”
In tandem with that last bit of advice, “monitor whether or not they are getting ‘in over their heads.’” Thinking about their relationship is only natural, however, becoming “emotionally over-involved and spending lots of time anguishing about the relationship” definitely is not. Again, without being “too emotional or judgmental,” parents can help their teen maintain an appropriately balanced relationship.
Finally, Dr. Greenberg tells parents to “be there to soothe their tender feelings when the relationship is over without saying, ‘I told you so.’” Even when it comes to “puppy love,” breakups can be difficult, so it is important to show your child your support and understanding.
Exciting, fun, and maybe just a little bit scary, this is a pivotal phase for both parent and child and truly one of the most interesting adventures on the parenthood path.
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