Puppy love may be what adults call it, but for teens first love can be incredibly intense. Hormonal surges, peer pressures, emerging adult mentality mixed with remaining childish habits are an intoxicating mix. Even if this is not their first crush, each subsequent love is likely to be clung to more tightly than the last since loss and rejection are felt so deeply during these oversensitive years. As with most other aspects of raising a teenager, dealing with their dating can be a hair-pulling, tooth-grinding experience, especially when your youngster brings home a parent’s deepest fear as a potential mate.
Forbidding a bad match, as most parents may be aware, will cause your child to grip their new relationship all the harder. Late nights, sneaking out and outright lying are all possible events to watch out for if your child is feeling alienated, even if you have not given an outright thumbs down to their romantic choice. In severe enough cases an elopement may result.
Since what is desired is for the teenager to find the right person and hopefully have a happy life or at least avoid living a thoroughly miserable one, what can be done to prevent your child from making one of the worst mistakes of their lives by staying with someone who you believe is not only wrong for them but outright bad for them?
There are no guarantees, of course, but being supportive is a far better approach. Creating positive dialogues and inviting each potential dating partner of your child into your home should be done as often as possible. This will not only ease some of the stress for the parents but also for the teenager as well. Knowing that he or she has a safe environment to bring home their various social choices may help them open an otherwise stubbornly closed mind, hopefully to catch a glimpse of the downfalls that you as a parent already see.
Intervene if You Suspect Your Child is in true Danger
If there is true concern of possible abuse within your child’s relationship, a long talk is definitely called for. Lectures will not be taken well, of course, because despite their juvenile status, teenagers want to be treated like adults, so approach your child as you would another adult. Explain that you are concerned about them and want to help if there are any problems.
There will most likely be extreme awkwardness as the young adult is likely to feel shame, embarrassment or outright fear at exposing any ugly secrets. They might also become incredibly defensive as their internal struggle for independence asserts itself, despite them being in a bad situation and needing help.
Realize That Some Mistakes Are Going to Be Made
Sadly, there may be occasions when all the love and support in the world is not enough and parents will watch helplessly as their child stumbles through a bad relationship. Or even a series of them. Or makes bad mistakes in what would otherwise be a good relationship.
Keep in mind that dating is tricky territory for most grown ups and these emerging adults are in the earliest stages of learning how to maneuver through difficult and often treacherous waters. Mistakes are bound to happen. As much as you may wish for your child to avoid some of the pitfalls you’ve experienced or see coming, some lessons have to be learned the hard way.
Trust in the Child You Have Raised
Also keep in mind that even good matches can turn into disappointments as your child is as likely to break up with a parents’ favorite as to stay together with them. Try not to let this dash your hopes. As the old saying goes, there really are plenty of other fish in the sea. Allow yourself to trust your child’s judgment. They have not completely forgotten the lessons that you’ve tried to instill in them over the years, despite current evidence to the contrary.
Eventually they should bring home someone that everyone can agree is a good fit as an addition to the family. And if not, do what you can to be there for them, especially when the inevitable break-up finally occurs. It may take years, but usually difficult lessons do sink in. And in the meantime, they are going to need all the real love they can get.