Parental support is a key part of teens having an enriching relationship experience.
Medical Advisor: Zamira Montoya Camargo, clinical psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
Your first relationship generally marks you for the rest of your life. Who doesn’t remember it? If a broken heart is hard to deal with as an adult, imagine what youth are going through who are first experiencing these emotional conflicts.
Some adults seem to forget that they were once teens and cannot understand the feelings their children go through at this stage.
Clinical psychologist Zamira Montoya Camargo suggests listening to them, trying to understand them, and talking to them confidently without comparing experiences. “When teens find someone they like, parents often tell them to not fall in love too soon or that they did things different when they were younger. A common mistake is to judge them or discredit their feelings,” the psychologist explains.
As our expert explains, it is normal when teens begin to see those who have been their friends differently. They notice characteristics in them that they were never attracted to before, and this leads them to take an interest in forming a closer, more intimate relationship.
Ideally, parents will be ready for when children begin to seek out connections beyond those of their immediate family, first with their friends and then in a relationship. Parents should also understand that this is not a sign that their children are abandoning them, or that they have lost interest in their family; they just need to experience another type of relationship, be autonomous and be recognized by their peers.
The key is to listen to them with empathy, establish trust with them and then allow them to express their feelings, while remaining in the role of being a parent, “Another mistake is to go to extremes and treat them as best friends,” our expert adds.
Should I talk to them about sex?
Yes, of course, but always though an educational approach, not one in which sex is forbidden. This does not mean that as their guardians, you can give them a “hall pass” to do whatever they want. It does mean you can talk to them about sexual encounters, what their consequences are, and their causes and effects.
It is important to not be closed to listening to their fears; instead, seek out opportunities for them to talk. Montoya suggests these talks being done between people of the same gender – mothers with daughters and fathers with sons – but that if it does not work out that way, “It doesn’t matter.”
“Begin these conversations at an early age with their pediatrician and, and with girls, at their first an appointment with their gynecologist. Explain how the body works, always from a perspective of education and prevention,” our expert indicates. In the end, the idea is to fulfill the guiding role of being parents•
Make the best of this phase
- Emphasize how important their first love is for their personal growth, especially during a break-up. Be supportive, even through silence, but make them feel you are by their side and want to hear them.
- Let them know that if their first relationship ends, their life is not over. On the contrary, life experiences are not always sad, they can also be happy. Discourage them from thinking up fantasies and explain to them that negative experiences are also important.
- Explain the values that are part of being in a relationship: respect for the other’s way of thinking, tolerance even when you disagree, the importance of communicating in a way that involves not only expressing oneself, but also listening to the others’ feelings, as this is how balance is achieved.
How to set boundaries and foster conversation
- It is important to respect any relationship your child may have. If they share details about their relationship, do not talk about them with other people, this will help build trust that the teen will value and remember in the future.
- Let them be spontaneous when they share their feelings and do not discourage any feelings they may have, as this is not beneficial to their growth and maturity.
- If your teenager is in an argument with their partner, do not interfere. Give them the opportunity to learn to resolve their own problems by talking it out, finding alternative solutions and being flexible.
- Never forget that adults will always be their parents, not their best friends, which is why it is necessary to set limits with them as authority figures.
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