I was 17 when I had my first “real” girlfriend (yes, yes, I was a late bloomer). But in fairness that is not to say that I hadn’t fallen in love before that; what many would have called ‘crushes’. Now, as a father, I get to watch this all unfolding in front of me again with my three daughters.
To prepare writing this article I was looking for some background data on teenage love, or relationships, and while there is a ton of information out there, it was not the sort of thing I want to address here.
The scenario: I’m in the car to pick up my teenage daughter from middle school. When she gets into the car, she’s simply beaming. “How did your day go?” I ask, “Ohhhh daddy, I met this boy today and …” 30 minutes later as we arrive at home she’s still talking about him. Teenage love; do we take it seriously?
According to all the information out there on the internet, we’d better take it seriously; STD’s, teen abuse, teen sex, teen pregnancy – a plethora of information to make any father lock up his daughter in the top room of the tower and throw away the key!
But these are not the issues I wanted to talk about today. Not that they are not worthy of discussion, they are. I’ve talk about some of them already in past articles and I’ll discuss others later. But today I just wanted to talk about the feelings of love. When your son or daughter comes to you with that silly doe-eyed expression talking about love, what is our first reaction as parents? I’m sure the issues listed above come into mind, but often I think the thought of “puppy-love” comes into mind. “Oh darling, you’re too young to know what real love is”. If you are thinking that let me recommend to you that those words NEVER leave your mouth in front of your child.
Childhood love is an expression of Self. It is a display of much needed independence and moral growth at this age of development. We as parents should not minimize this in the eyes of our youth, in fact I believe it should be encouraged. David Richo, noted psychologist and author often writes about the 5 A’s (attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and allowing). These are attributes that we need fulfilled from a very early age. These later, in healthy relationships become the attributes that we desire to give. But we’ll never be able to give them if we never got them from our parents. So, when your teen comes to you in love, don’t dismiss those feelings as ‘puppylove’, or “you’re too young to understand” – trust me, to your teen, YOU don’t know what you are talking about.
In my research I did find an interesting article / study about teenage relationships. This study found our teenage boys have much more feelings then they are normally given credit for. I shouldn’t be surprised (having been one of those boys) – but I am a father of daughters now and the perspective is very different. If we take away our children’s love when they are young, what exactly will they have when they are older adults? It is real love, and should be treated as such. In our experience we know, just as she came bouncing to the car expressing her love, one day she will come running to the car in sorrow and pain over a lost love. Let us, as parents be there both times; first to celebrate… then to commiserate with our child’s healthy growth.
For more info: David Richo