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How to deal with your teenager’s love story
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How to deal with your teenager’s love story

Dialogues about love and relationships become fruitful when the parental voice comes with a tone of safety and concern than of control

Adolescence is the age when intimate relationships and identity assertions become a part of life. But talking about these with parents could turn out to be challenging for youngsters. It can be equally tough for parents to deal with their children’s love life and raging hormones

It was during the Christmas break of 2021 that 19-year-old Shriya’s (name changed) parents heard about her love for a boy. She was visiting them in Chennai after two years of being away in Mumbai where she was a student. The happiness they felt while reuniting with their daughter after the pandemic was only fleeting when she told them about her blossoming love for a boy over a WhatsApp message. She was apprehensive about telling them directly and instead decided to text them from under the same roof.

The fact that she had a love life stunned the parents as much as how she chose to share her story.

Adolescence is the age when intimate relationships and identity assertions become a part of life. But talking about these with parents could turn out to be challenging for youngsters. It can be equally tough for parents to deal with their children’s love life and raging hormones.

Shriya was aggressive while talking to her parents after sharing the WhatsApp message. “And we had a knee-jerk reaction. We shouted at her. Our concern was her safety in a new city when she was going around with a stranger,” recounts the mother, pointing out that they didn’t know the details or background of the boy.

But then, they took the help of a counsellor to deal with the situation. Shriya’s mother says the counsellor helped the trio. They spoke openly and also listened to each other, weighing all the pros and cons of the situation.

Two weeks later, when Shriya packed her bags to return to Mumbai, the parents were not anxious; they had confidence in their daughter. “We realised that she is an adult who can make her own decisions. We can only influence her through our love and concern,” says the mother.

Let your teenager talk about his/her love

It is not easy for parents to deal with their children’s love affairs. According to Maryanne Pais, HOD, department of psychology, St Joseph’s College of Commerce, Bengaluru, dialogues become fruitful when the parental voice comes with a tone of safety and concern than that of control.

“Once your child becomes an adolescent, the level of control you had will change as they are more autonomous. Identity formation is a part of that period of development which includes exploring romantic relationships. It’s also biological that they have attained puberty and are interested in seeking romantic relationships,” points out Pais.

Be a listening ear

Mythili Nirvan, an entrepreneur and mother from Bengaluru, says that it is very natural for adolescent boys and girls to be romantically attracted not only to the opposite sex but also to the same sex.

“We as parents need to first and foremost have a listening ear when it comes to teenage children’s infatuations, attractions, friendships and dates. We need to ‘listen’ without judging and then give them the right solutions if required or let them go through the experience,” says Nirvan. According to her, no amount of advice can replace experience. “It is always the experience which will make them wiser.”

Pais points out that most teenagers think that their parents cannot relate to Gen Z-ers because of the generation gap. “Allow the kite to fly,” says Pais, who also counsels the students from the college.

She suggests the following to make conversations easier between parents and children:

  • Depending on the situation, list the dos and don’ts. Try to reason with the children instead of forcing them to listen to you.
  • At some point, you have to let go of your child and allow him/her to make mistakes.
  • By enforcing certain rules, a parent may be seen as an enemy or someone unapproachable. If you don’t play the role of the enforcer, the children are more likely to come to you when they need your help.
  • Comfort your son/daughter without breaking trust or breaching privacy.

Be realistic

“Parents have to be realistic. It’s likely that an adolescent will experience a crush. But every crush is not going to be a full-blown relationship,” says Pais. She adds that parents have to ensure room for youngsters to talk about why they like a person. “Crush could just be an infatuation wherein you like a few traits in a person, whereas a romantic relationship comes with emotional intimacy and commitment. This needs to be told to the children,” she points out.

Nirvan says she has always been a friend to her daughter who will soon turn 21. “In fact, not only her, but a lot of her friends also come to me for suggestions and advice pertaining to love interests since they feel comfortable discussing it with me instead of their parents who are either too strict or quick to judge.”

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