We all have been through the “Teenage Love” phase. You might be surprised to hear dating labels like “boyfriend”, “girlfriend” and “together” from your sixth grader’s lips. At this age, it likely means that your son or daughter is sitting next to a special person at lunchtime or hanging out during recess. Groups play a big role in transmitting information about who loves whom. Even if your son passes over a certain girl, most 12-year-old are not really ready for the one-on-one interaction of a real relationship. For eighth-graders, teenage dating probably means a lot of time spent texting or talking on the phone, sharing pictures on social media, and spending time in a group. Some children can also be passed by hand. In high school, strong romantic attachments can form and things can get serious and fast.
Call It Puppy Love, It’s Still Love, Doesn’t matter Teenage Love
Adults generally take a cynical view of teenage romance, as if it were a chemical imbalance in need of correction. “It’s all about sex,” they say. “You know what they’re like when their hormones start raging.” A boy and a girl float down the street holding hands, dizzy in love, and all parents see is testosterone and estrogen out on a date. Just look at the words used to describe affection between two young people: “infatuation,” “crush,” “puppy love.” If it feels like love to the two puppies, isn’t it love? To reiterate a point made earlier, it wasn’t all that long ago that many couples got married in their teens.
“Parents should never minimize or ridicule a first love,” says pediatrician. “It is a very important relationship to teenagers, and it’s important for another reason, in that it is their first intimate relationship with someone outside their family.”
When “going out” evolves into “going steady,” it is natural to worry that things are getting too serious too soon. If you see schoolwork start to suffer and friendships fall by the wayside, it is reasonable to restrict the number of times Romeo and Juliet can rendezvous during the school week. High-school romances tend to have limited life spans. Those that endure until graduation day rarely survive the post-high-school years. If one or both young people leave home, the physical distance has a way of opening an emotional distance between them, and eventually the relationship coasts to a halt.
Other things to consider include the following
- Is your child really interested in someone in particular, or are they just trying to keep up with what friends are doing?
- Do you think your son or daughter would tell you if something went wrong?
- Is your child generally confident and happy?
- Does your child’s physical development match their emotional development?