Parents want their children to be successful and happy. It’s universal. While many of us are intimately involved in directing our children’s academic or extracurricular lives, we can often feel inadequate or uncomfortable in advising them in their social/love lives. That’s understandable, but not an excuse.
Popular culture has tried to brainwash us into thinking it’s none of our business. Perhaps we haven’t felt very successful in our own relationships and are gun shy about offering suggestions. Often we have tried and been told we are still operating in the dark ages of dating. I am here to tell you, do not be deterred.
No one loves your child like you do, and you have their best interest at heart. With that said, you may need to freshen up your understanding of the world our teens are entering. Though every child is different, on average you will find children who are ages 9-11 showing more interest in being with their friends, rather than just their family. From 10-14 they may begin to associate with mixed gender groups, and from 15-19, there will likely be experimentation with romantic relationships.
You went through these stages of social maturation yourself. Some did it more gracefully than others. Take a moment to remember what it was like. Remember the insecurities, the elation or devastation that accompanied romance. Now, take that compassion and personal experience, and talk to your son or daughter. Let them hear about you. Let them learn of the good, the bad, and the ugly in your teen relationships. Don’t become preachy or squirrely. Sometimes you just need to share the story, and let them discover the lesson to be learned from it. Though they may not act grateful, I’ll guarantee they are curious to hear how things were in “back when I was a kid.” They will absorb more than you think.
My point here is simply this: as a parent, your job is to keep your child as guided, informed, and safe as possible. You will not be able to completely avoid heartbreak for them, but you can teach values, respect for others and themselves, and when they are ready, help them feel comfortable in exploring the world of dating and love. Their future happiness is largely influenced by the relationships they are forming now.
I hope the articles found in this month’s Notes From Home will be a trip down memory lane as well as an important conversation starter in your home.
To Family Happiness,
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.