I’m going to start this blog post off with a few questions for you—a trip down memory lane, if you will.
Remember your first love? Really spend the next few minutes thinking about the first person you loved. Not a family member, sports player, swimsuit model or John Stamos… sorry where were we? Right. Think about your first, honest-to-goodness real love. While the picture of that person is developing, I’ve got some questions to help stir up the memories:
What did they look like?
What did they wear?
How did you meet?
Who asked who out? Was it awkward?
How did you communicate? Did you pass notes? Call each other?
How often did you see them?
Where did you go? What did you do?
How did you feel when you were around them?
What did you parents think?
How old were you?
Did anyone tell you that it couldn’t be love because you were too young?
How many years ago was this?
And you still can remember it?
It can be challenging for parents to hear their child is dating or has a romantic interest. I mean this is the same kid who yells back “Whatever!” coupled with an eye roll. It’s no wonder adults can be quick to dismiss it, thinking it’s just a phase or puppy love, but as you may have noticed by the quiz above, we carry the memories of our first loves for a longtime, sometimes a lifetime. So ease up on, “It can’t be real love” because perhaps it is.
What does that even mean, dating? Maybe it’s as simple as feeling great around another person, receiving enjoyable texts or hanging out at the mall in groups (amazingly enough youth continue this age old practice). The relationship may never leave the cell phone despite making it FBO (Facebook Official). They may go to the movies, grab some food, or watch sporting events together. Dating can mean different things depending on the couple. What does it mean to your child? Ask them. What do they do while dating? If they aren’t dating yet, ask if their friends are and what they do? Remember to reassure your child that it’s normal to not want to date either. The important thing here is to take the time to approach the conversation and open the dialogue.
Cue Eye Roll: Values & Rules
After listening to your child, validating their new status and promising to not embarrass or judge them with the newly acquired information, take time to clarify your family values and thoughts around dating and relationships, and even (gasp) sex. Keeping the conversation open now helps reinforce that you are an approachable parent, there for them no matter what, especially when they need it most.
Don’t forget to add in the family rules around dating. Do parents need to be home if there is a visit? Are one on one dates okay or should that be done in groups? What time is curfew? Do you need to meet their family? What should your child do if they run into a problem or feel unsafe? Can they call you at anytime, no questions asked, or questions asked the following day? Discussing this ahead of time can ease the awkwardness of bringing it up when a situation heats up.
I <3 U
Crushes and first romantic relationships are good practice for the future. With your guidance these first relationships can help teach your child about themselves and how to navigate relationship which aren’t always sunshine, rainbows and I <3 U. Learning how to cope with the emotional side of things (enhanced by the influx of puberty hormones) and the potentially painful side, as relationships end, are skills they need throughout their life.
While you continue to support your child through the ups and downs, reassure them this is a normal part of life and you’re going to be there to help process and get them through it. Even through the eye rolls, and the shouts of “You’ll never understand!” you’ll still be there because you know the romantic partner they are with now may be the same person they think of when responding to the above questions in 20 years.