How to talk to your teenage child about love and infatuation
One of the major concerns of parents, who come to me seeking advice for their children, is the difficulty to handle the school and college level, light hearted affairs, and how these infatuations become a distraction in achieving their personal goals and create a hindrance in their academic achievements as well. Sometimes, the discussions and corrections go to the extent of creating rift between the parents and their teenagers.
This happens because teenagers start seeing the world with a different perspective and their biggest influencers are their peer group. They live in a world in which they get influenced easily by factors (both positive and negative) surrounding them. This in turn leads them to either lending a deaf ear to their parents’ words or disobeying them completely.
I am sure all of you will agree with me that mentoring and handling a teenage kid is extremely tiring especially when they have these infatuations, friendships and all entangled in their lives. However, my personal opinion would be that this is the age where we need to be patient and open minded, for a single wrong move on our part can cause a distance between our child and us and effect the love and emotions.
Most teenagers confuse infatuation and true love. Most of the times, it’s just the physical attraction that makes them supposedly fall in love with a member of opposite sex. And while they feel they are really in true love, as parents we know better, but the challenge is how do we go about telling them when they are not ready to listen.
In a society like ours, we usually tend to avoid talking such topics at home, with the fear that open discussion on such topics may encourage children to try different things. And as teenage starts, we assume all their friendships with opposite sex to be affairs or infatuations and start being suspicious about the same and knowingly or unknowingly transform ourselves to a spy than being a parent.
Here are few simple tips on handling this sensitive issue at home and maintain a balance between being a parent and a friend to your teenage child:
An important lesson for parents is to maintain a close bond with their children as they grow up. Understand that teenagers have a lot of activity happening in their world, they may refrain from sharing information, if they find the parents judgemental, strict and conditional. Rather than being a parent, try being a genuine friend to your teenage child, that way you are sure that you are the fall back for your child to share his personal griefs and daily stuffs.
And when you come to know of his infatuations or true love as he or she may refer to, please don’t scold or blow it out of proportion, give him/ her a genuine ear where he/ she is being listened to. A good rapport is important for you to make sure that your point is being valued and is impactful. Please do remember for anybody, adult or child, the sense of being respected is greater than the sense of being guided. Do not take your child’s feelings or emotions for granted.
Sit down with him/ her and let them open about their feelings without any hesitation and make them understand that you are not against love but you just want them to take the right decision in life. Treat them as individuals and help them identify if the feelings are genuine or mere attraction, drive them to take the right decision and not just directly oppose.
Gently explain to your child on repercussions he or she may have to go through on account of a hasty decision and explain the importance of time, space and independence in a relationship. Use this as an opportunity to explain the beauty of companionship in life, what could be an ideal life partner be like, allow your kid to take time to see if his/ her relationship will be able to withstand the test of time.
Be calm if you are pointing out subtle differences between the families that could become potential issues later on. Make them understand the importance of financial stability and how it feels to be moving out in an independent world and how different it is from being under your wings of protection. Give them an insight to various responsibilities that your child may have to shoulder as he/she grows up and has a relationship.
Overall this would give them a big picture to look forward to and they would feel a lot more responsible for their lives and trust. Finally, reaffirm the fact that you are not against him/ her, but you want both of them to be settled, independent, conscious and clear before they start a life together.
I strongly feel as parents, it is our moral responsibility to make sure our kids learn to distinguish between fact and fiction. I understand that parenting a teenage kid would drive us to wall sometimes but let’s realize and understand that they are still young children and going through a sea of changes within and outside them. So please be patient, understanding and gentle, believe me if you trust them and make them know that you trust them, they will never let you down.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)