From concerns about teen sex to worries about slipping grades or a significant other is a bad influence, teen dating brings a host of new parenting concerns. Even in the best of circumstances, your child’s first love can bring new stresses and new parenting challenges. If you hate your teenager’s boyfriend or girlfriend, however, a previously peaceful house can turn into a war zone. If you’re concerned about the person your teenage child has chosen to date, here’s how to handle it:
Pause For Some Perspective
Before you begin planning how to deal with your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s important to stop for a moment and give the issue some serious thought. Many parents are frightened by the idea of their teen dating and, as a result, will not like anyone their teen brings home. Others can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy as they watch the person who used to idolize them transfer all that love and closeness to someone else. Take some time to think about why you’re uncomfortable with your teen’s significant other. If possible, seek an outside perspective from a friend, colleague, or even another teen’s parent. You may find that, no matter who your teen was dating, you’d still be struck with the same feelings of discomfort. If this is the case, your issue is really with your child, and not their boyfriend or girlfriend. Take some time out to talk to your child about family rules, expectations about grades, sex, etc., and don’t be afraid to express some of your reservations about your child beginning to grow up. This can be a powerful bonding opportunity and a chance for you to both grow and learn!
Label The Specific Problematic Behavior
If, after careful reflection, you find that the problem really does lie with your teen’s significant other, it’s time to label the problem for what it is. Proclaiming that you hate your son’s girlfriend will get you nowhere, but narrowing the issue to, say, your concerns about the girlfriend smoking or drinking, will help you remain focused both on assuaging your own fears and helping your teen to make positive choices.
Don’t Wage War
Whatever you do, do not try to break your teen and her significant other up. Beginning to date is one of the first steps for teenagers into adulthood, and if you position yourself in diametric opposition to your daughter’s boyfriend, you’ll find her quickly asserting her independence as strongly as possible. Forbidding your child from dating someone is a perfect recipe to ensure that your teen never breaks up with the boyfriend or girlfriend you hate so badly. Further, if you forbid your teen from dating someone, it’s far more likely that they’ll just see the other person in secret, making it more difficult for you to supervise and be aware of what’s going on in your teen’s life.
Even if you can’t stand your teen’s significant other, work on developing a friendly rapport with him or her. Being rude will do you no good, but being friendly will increase the odds that both your teen and your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend will be open and honest with you. This doesn’t mean you have to be your teen’s significant other’s friend or that you have to tolerate rude or destructive behavior by any means. Simply treat this person the way you would any other acquaintance or visitor in your house.
If you’re concerned about the way your son or daughter’s boyfriend or girlfriend might be influencing him or her, the best way to protect your child is to set fair and even-handed rules and stick with them. If your teen’s significant other is a truly destructive force- someone who is abusive, uses drugs, etc.- then the rule should immediately become that your teen is only permitted to see his or her significant other when you are around. If the concerns are more minor, like concerns about slipping grades or staying out past curfew, buckle down on your normal family rules and remind your teen that being allowed to date is a privilege that is earned by obeying normal family expectations.
Keep The Channels of Communication Open
Don’t tell your teen you hate his or her boyfriend or girlfriend. This is simply unproductive. But you should continue to talk to your teen about any concerns you have, as well as invite her to share with you what she likes about this person. If you position yourself as a trusted, mature adult instead of a crazed parent raging irrationally at your teen’s first love, you’re far more likely to be able to continue to exert a positive influence on your teen well into her adult years.