Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Teen Boyfriend/Girlfriend Dilemma

The mother of a 14 year old 8th grade girl contacted me recently regarding the issue of whether she should "allow" her daughter to have a boyfriend. She and her husband felt strongly that high school is the appropriate time for this to start, worrying that the distraction from academics, extra curricula activities, and developing strong friendships would be too great. Ah, if affairs of the heart could be so regulated. And so this family had a boyfriends until your 16.

Let the lying begin! Which is exactly what happened. A trip to the mall with a "group of friends" really was a clandestine meeting of the star-crossed lovers. The lie that they had "broken up" was discovered on a visit to their daughter's facebook page where her status had been changed from "single" to "in a relationship." So much for the no boyfriend rule till your 16!

Here is the thing. When you are parenting a teenager, you have to be really sure that a rule you make is a rule you can enforce. And a "no boyfriend, or no girlfriend" rule is completely unenforceable. Unless you are tied to your teen during the school day, after school, and in their bedroom when they are texting and facebooking and god knows what else, your teen can and will carry on a relationship with whomever he or she wants to have a relationship with. Forbidding something that is controlled by hormones, and fantasy is impossible, and will send your teen underground. The devil you know is much safer than the forbidden fruit.

First love, or second or third are the most look forward to and anticipated parts of becoming teenagers. They are a training ground for the real deal. When teens "practice" in middle school they are readying themselves for what it really means to love someone. As a parent, it is much easier to supervise a middle school "relationship" than a high school one. You are still the driver, the chaperone, and the relationship expert. Make the most of these years while you still have the influence!

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