Your Teenager's First Love: Tips on How to Respond
The arrival of adolescence produces numerous changes, both physical and psychological. During this stage, children begin to feel an attraction towards the opposite sex for the first time, and may even experience their first love.
However, these first cycles of teenage relationships are meaningful life experiences. They’re moments that help us learn to weigh and manage our emotions.
These first crushes and relationships may seem trivial and insignificant in their duration. However, they’re important stepping stones in our psychological maturity.
Understanding your child’s first romantic relationship
Many say you never forget your first love. This phrase may be much more empirical than romantic. The fact is that a person’s first romantic relationship often takes place when he or she is a teenager.
During this stage, all teenagers experience changes that are typical of adolescence and feel all sorts of new and intense emotions. Therefore, a person’s first teenage crush, even if it’s short-lived, is very memorable.
The news that your child is dating someone for the first time can take many parents by surprise. For some of us, it can even be distressing.
We can’t keep our children from having these experiences – nor should we. However, just the thought of our children getting hurt somehow puts many parents on alert.
The worry you experience is common, and won’t last forever. It’s the result of a natural instinct that we as parents have to protect our offspring from dangerous situations.
That’s why our minds suddenly become overwhelmed with a host of fears regarding all sorts of hypothetical situations… Social problems having to do with premature sexual relationships, undesired pregnancies, violence and abuse. These and others concerns all of the sudden seem right around the corner.
But first love, in most cases, is relatively harmless. What’s more, a person’s first relationship can be the first gear in the construction of positive self-esteem.
It helps teens trust in themselves and boosts psychological maturity that allows them to manage their emotions properly. In turn, this helps them handle complex problems in daily life as well as commit to their own personal objectives.
“The changes that are typical of adolescence make us feel all sorts of new and intense emotions. Therefore, a person’s first teenage crush, even if it’s short-lived, is very memorable.”
The biological focus of first love during adolescence
During adolescence, the sexual hormones that both young men and women have become highly sensitive to external stimuli. This doesn’t only translate to the appearance of sexual urges. In fact, the process of human reproduction is much more complex and based on more aspects than mere physical attraction.
Falling in love (which is intense during adolescence) is a process that invites both young men and women to begin dating long term. It involves the release of neurochemicals in response to the detection of positive attributes in the opposite sex. These attributes can include both physical characteristics as well as a person’s personality.
Of course, the sensation of falling in love doesn’t automatically determine reproductive behavior – at least not in human beings. In any case, there are of course a wide variety of birth control methods that help us plan how and when we want to start a family.
So, why are we looking at adolescent relationships through such a scientific lens, rather than a social issue? While the teenage years can be a vulnerable time for unwanted pregnancies, education and guidance are key to avoiding this problem. Furthermore, it’s not an issue that’s exclusive to adolescence.
What stance should I take regarding my teenager’s first romantic relationship?
To one extent or another, a teenager’s first love is a cause for concern for parents. In general, it’s best to stay on the sidelines regarding our children’s relationships.
However, when dealing with teens, it’s important to know how much space to give. As parents, we also need to be able to detect when we need to set tighter limits to protect our children from danger.
With this is mind, we want to give you some advice on how to define your stance regarding your adolescent’s dating:
- Don’t prohibit your child from dating: Rather than helping, this usually only encourages your child to date in secret. If we really think about it, it’s not the relationship in and of itself that concerns us. It’s important we identify the real issues, which are usually unwanted pregnancy, violence and abuse, etc. Once we identify our concerns, we can orient our children and establish a more solid trust with them.
- Strengthen their self-esteem: Many parents worry about the bad influence others can have on their children. In order to say no to negative peer pressure, children need to be assertive and self-confident. It’s our responsibility as parents to help build up our child’s self-esteem so that they can make wise decisions.
- Responsibility: Keeping up with academic expectations like doing homework and studying is a responsibility for all teens, even when dating. The same is true regarding household expectations like chores, etc. Setting conditions in order for your teenager to go out with friends or on dates helps maintain discipline.
The above suggestions will help your child start to understand how to maintain a balance between personal life and daily responsibilities.
It’s also important to remember that you won’t always like your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend. However, in dating and many other areas of life, we must learn to be tolerant and accept our children’s choices.