Falling in Love

Your 13 year old daughter comes home from school and tells you she’s in love. She begins doodling the name of her love interest while computing algebraic equations, she begins spending more time on the phone or IM-ing than talking with you, and suddenly you fear your baby will experience the inevitable rollercoaster ride that is a relationship.

While parents may believe that their child is too young for this new experience, in fact, being a single teenager can feel pretty abnormal for teens subjected to media images and MTV programs. Teens idealize the boyfriend or girlfriend, prom date, or crush as this attractive person with whom they can develop an intimate relationship with. Of course it isn’t always as simple as this.

Romantic relationships are very important for teens for many reasons. First of all, society tells teens (and adults for that matter) that being in a relationship is better than being single. It is also true that teen years are inherently a time when individuals feel less confident in themselves, so having someone to care for them can make them feel confident. In addition, some teens may have strained relationships with their parents and may feel that a boyfriend or girlfriend will fill this void for them. Add this to the fact that teens are dealing with raging hormones, and the desire to be involved in a relationship becomes so important.

Unfortunately the pressure to be in a relationship may lend to making less thoughtful choices. This can be problematic because in their desperation, they may choose a boyfriend or girlfriend that may not be in their best interest, or they may fail to take into account that being in a relationship takes hard work and some sacrifice.

While teenage romantic relationships are difficult, they are a necessary part of growing up in our society, as is the process of ending a relationship as a teen. Parents are often concerned with their teen’s reaction to a relationship ending. On Friday, we’ll look at ways to handle the inevitable break-ups and heartbreaks in adolescence.

Commentary by Laurie Linscheid, MFT

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