It doesn’t seem five minutes since you were aww-ing at your precious little one holding hands with another tot at nursery. Now, though, they’re in secondary school and they’re holding hands again, but this time it’s serious.
Despite knowing that almost every teenager will fall in love at some point, when it happens parents can find the whole experience something of a shock.
Here are a few bits of advice to help you cope with their emotional roller-coaster ride… and yours.
Control yourself. The news that your child is now in a relationship can trigger all kinds of feelings: Outrage that they dare, jealousy that they can, fear that they might get into difficulties and dismay at the proof your youngster is growing up. However, it’s quite important you work out which parts of your reaction are helpful to what’s going on and which are about you. It can be difficult, but a calm and thoughtful approach will be best all round.
Don’t make judgements. You might struggle to see any redeeming features in the object of your son or daughter’s affection, but that doesn’t matter a bit. Your teenager loves this person and that’s what matters at the moment. Instead, have faith that your child can make up their own mind about the kind of person they want to be with. And, in the meantime, suck it up and welcome the object of their affections.
Remember your own teen romances. At the time, the emotions were intense and you thought you knew what you were doing. And in most cases, you wouldn’t have welcomed the advice from an ‘old’ person, would you? The point is that, whatever happens afterwards, for a teenager romance is a very serious business.
Have the sex chat. Whatever you think about it, believing it won’t happen is only fooling yourself. If teenagers are going to have sex, then they need to be doing it safely. Talk about contraception and self respect – help them find both.
Set the rules. Even if you’ve reluctantly accepted your child is moving towards adult relationships, you are entitled to set down rules. For example, you could insist that the bedroom door never gets shut and that whoever is in your house follows the same rules as everyone else.
Treat them both with respect. This means don’t belittle your son or daughter while their boyfriend or girlfriend is around – even if you think it’s just fun. Don’t make them feel awkward or that their relationship isn’t important.
Relax. It really isn’t that much of a big deal. Be yourself, be kind and keep talking to your teenage son or daughter and before you know it you’ll be wondering what the fuss was all about.
But be alert. Equally, trust your instincts and be alert for signs the relationship is unhealthy.
Finally, be ready to pick up the pieces. Inevitably, young hearts will be broken. Be ready to listen and offer comfort, but, please, try really, really hard not to say “I told you so”.