Your teen’s in love! What next?

by Laurel Pretorius
teens in love, celebrating the magic and purity of young affection
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Navigating your teen’s first real relationship can be both exciting, scary and challenging, especially in today’s digital age, writes Laurel Pretorius.

As a mom going through the whole first love experience for the second time with my youngest daughter, I suggest you open yourself up to the experience of your teen’s coming-of-age phase. Show sensitivity and be supportive while placing healthy boundaries in place, and by doing this, you’ll most likely find that an endearing connection forms between both of you during this intense and special time in their life.

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Open communication

By being more open about sexuality, love and relationships, your teen will learn to share precious and tender moments with you as well as come to you for comfort and support when their relationship isn’t doing so well.

But, if you close yourself off from their first real love experience, you will end up alienating your teen. Your role as the parent is to make sure your in-love teen knows they have a safe space at home, with healthy boundaries, while they are exploring the concept of love out in the world.

“Communication is key. “It can be scary to have to talk to your child about something you never had to talk with your own parents about. But times have changed and it is important to build and maintain a healthy relationship with your teen that allows them to be free and open with you as a parent,” says Thilivhali Livhadi, loveLife Gauteng provincial manager and counsellor.

Sexuality & teens

It’s also important to understand that although their hormones might be raging, your child is too young to have a serious intimate relationship at the age of 13 or 14 as they are still too immature to navigate the intensity of sexual love. It’s more appropriate from around the age of 16 or older.

When your teen begins to experience their first feelings of desire for another person, you have to be open to the fact that they will also be discovering sex and their own sexual preference at about the same time. This makes it more complicated for the parent and the teen, especially these days when LGTBQ+ is a powerful movement, social media forms the basis of your teen’s sex education, and they are exposed to so much more online than we ever were.

The subject of sexuality will come up and it has changed quite considerably over the last decade. As a parent you need to do your own homework around this subject and keep an open mind because your teen will very likely be introducing you to a much more diverse world of sexuality and gender identity.

Gone are the days of there being 3 simple categories – heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. Use this helpful link as a dictionary to the many different types of sexual preferences.

If your teen shares their sexual preference with you, it is important to remain calm and non-judgemental. “Ask them how they feel about it and make sure to reassure them while providing them with your endless support,” says Livhadi.

Also read: How to talk to your kids about war

teens in love, cherishing the beauty and wonder of youthful affection

 10 top tips 

To help parents safely navigate and support their teens’ first exploration into love, sex and sexuality, here are 10 points to consider along the way:

  1. Open Communication: Establish a safe space for your teen to discuss thoughts and questions about sex and relationships.
  2. Healthy Relationships: Emphasise mutual respect, trust, communication, and consent as crucial elements for a fulfilling relationship.
  3. Digital Dimension: Address the impact of technology on intimacy, set online boundaries, and explain the potential consequences of sharing intimate content online.
  4. Consent: Clearly explain the concept of ongoing and voluntary agreement in intimate relationships.
  5. Comprehensive Sex Ed: Provide accurate information about sex, contraception, and STIs, dispelling any misconceptions.
  6. Boundaries: Encourage your teen to communicate and respect their own and their partner’s boundaries.
  7. Safe Sex Practices: Discuss the importance of protection and contraception, explaining potential consequences of unprotected sex.
  8. Body Positivity: Address body image and self-esteem, promoting a positive and realistic perception of uniqueness.
  9. Inclusivity: Discuss diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, creating an inclusive and accepting environment.
  10. Professional Guidance: Seek help from healthcare professionals or educators for specialized information if needed.

“Lastly, as a parent you have the right to set healthy rules and boundaries that will protect your children into falling prey to negative sexual experiences,” Livhadi concludes.

Be open, be supportive and be a safe space for your teens through this important milestone in their young lives. And while you’re performing your parental duties don’t forget that first love is a beautiful thing.  

Also read: A parent’s guide to supporting teens through exams

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