“I’m a 16 yr old boy in love with my classmate. We both love each other very much and want to get married.”
And many more such queries from teenagers( sometimes even as young as 13-14yrs)appear on a regular basis in the ‘agony aunts” columns of newspapers, magazines, etc.
This would seem like a worrying trend for most parents and specially the parents of a girl. Unlike the West our society is still not open to teenage relationships and the concept of ‘dating’ and such associations are looked down upon. But it is also true that over the years the boy-girl interactions have increased and parents have loosened up to the idea of girls having boys as friends and vice-versa. It’s only when the young teens talk about having a boyfriend or a girlfriend that the parents panic and go into restrictive or authoritative mode. But this reaction by the parents is akin to that of an ostrich that buries its head in the sand at the approach of danger thinking that if it can’t see the danger it’s not there.
Physiologically and psychologically teenagers feel attraction towards the opposite sex. When this happens they may begin feeling love towards another teen. In most cases it is a “positive’ thing. Studies say that teens who experience the feeling of love are usually more in touch with their emotions and will be considerate to others’ feelings.
Most parents feel that teenage love is more like ‘puppy love’, a crush or an infatuation. It may be so at times but for them it’s the real thing. They too feel the happiness of being in love or the heart-break of a broken relationship. Teenagers are capable of feeling true love, only they are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of a serious relationship.
What freaks out the parents most is the idea that in such a relationship their children may indulge in activities that may go beyond hand holdings or harmless pettings. Teenage pregnancy is already a major problem in Western countries that has made their government sit up and take steps to tackle the problem. In our country with the bias against the girl such incidents are hushed up or swept under the carpet. This fear also drives the parents to impose strict restrictions on the girls which impacts the holistic development of the girl and does nothing to solve the problem.
Here are some things that parents can do to keep off anxiety.
COMMUNICATE. Talk with your children early and often about relationships and sex. Initiate conversation and make sure it’s a dialogue and not a monologue.
Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes- communicating with your children about these issues is more effective if you are clear in your mind about them.
Supervise and monitor your children by rules, curfews.
Know your children’s friends. Welcome them into your home and talk to them openly.
Be media literate- know what your kids are watching, listening and reading.
These tips work best when they are part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from an early age.
Express love and affection often, listen carefully to what your children say, do activities with your children that they enjoy, be supportive and interested in what interests them and help them build self esteem.
Each child is unique and special and so has to be treated individually. But the one thing that should be the basis of all your decisions is your LOVE for the child and not the fear of ”what will people think.” Love and patience are the most effective tools in any such situation.
And most importantly remember that you were once a teen too and had your own fair share of romances, crushes and heart-breaks. IT’S NORMAL.