My friend rolled her eyes as she told me her 16-year-old son gave his girlfriend a $200 necklace for Valentine’s Day. “He says he loves her,” she said. “Really though?” I responded. “Can teenagers fall in love?” She stared at me and tilted her head to the side, and I remembered who I was talking to.
This friend of mine met her husband when she was 15 and started dating him at 16. They’ve been together since 1995, and are creeping up to the 30-year mark. We’re only in our early 40s! It’s crazy, but it proves it’s possible to meet your forever person when you’re that young. Still, as a mom, it’s hard to take a kid seriously who says, “But Mom, I love him.” So what can you say that won’t make your child feel misunderstood or disrespected? Start with these 7 things.
1. I believe you.
You don’t have to say these exact words. That would be awkward. But don’t tell your teenage son he doesn’t know what love is. Lecturing teenagers with the purpose of proving we know what they’re feeling better than they do has worked for zero point zero parents. Saying “it’s not love; you’re just infatuated” will only push your teen away and shut down communication. Whether it’s love, a crush, or lust, it feels just as real to a 15-year-old as it does to an adult.Lecturing teenagers with the purpose of proving we know what they’re feeling better than they do has worked for zero point zero parents. Click To Tweet
2. What do you love about him/her?
Asking your teen to tell you what characteristics her boyfriend has will give you a glimpse of what she values in a relationship. You can follow up with questions or comments that communicate how your teen should expect to be treated: “It’s great that he’s attentive, but make sure he gives you your freedom too.”
3. When is he/she coming over for dinner?
Hopefully, if your teen has professed his love for another, you’ve already met her, but definitely invest more time in getting to know her now that things are getting more serious. Having your teen’s significant other over for dinner will not only show you how they interact, but it will also help her get to know you and your expectations.
4. Here’s what our family’s rules are.
This is when you can clarify a curfew and talk about open versus closed bedroom doors and how much time you want your teen to spend with family. Remember, kids look to parents to set boundaries so they feel safe. Even teens still need that sense of security a parent provides.
5. Are you having sex or considering it?
Can teenagers fall in love? You might think they can’t, but regardless of whether it’s actual love, sex is still actual sex. Nationwide, 30 percent of teens report that their parents have never spoken with them about sex. If you’ve been avoiding the sex talk, don’t wait any longer. If your teen thinks she’s in love, she might think sex is expected.
6. What do you think a healthy relationship looks like?
Your teen might use your marriage as a guide, or he might think something he’s seen in the movies or on TV is the appropriate way to act when you’re in love. Ask him what it means to love someone and how to show that love. If you’re noticing signs of abuse or manipulation, it’s time to have a serious talk.
7. When can you and I spend some time together?
We all know telling a friend that “we should get together soon” rarely actually leads to getting together. The same is true for our kids. Telling your teen that you want to spend time with her isn’t enough to get onto her busy schedule. Nail down a date and use the time to check in on life, continue the discussion about sex and dating, and just have fun together.
What do you think? Can teenagers fall in love? Has yours?