It happens when you least expect it…as if dealing with all of the other various trials and tribulations of adolescence aren’t enough for parents, the day comes when your son or daughter wants you to meet the love of their life – the latest and greatest girlfriend or boyfriend. Perhaps she wants to invite him over for dinner or to (gasp) a family function. With everything else going on, it can be a challenge for parents to know just how to act or what to do. Chances are, this won’t be the last and this situation actually provides us another opportunity to work on building this “new relationship” we are establishing with our soon-to-be grown-up teenager.
Boyfriends and Girlfriends should be treated with the same warmth and courtesy we would treat any other of our children’s friends. Regardless of what the label is, they are still someone with whom our teen has decided to chose as a friend and if ever there is a time for the golden rule, this is it. It helps me to think how I would want my teens to treat a friend or date that I bring home. It is so tempting to want to offer words of romantic wisdom, or make a fuss over the girlfriend, boyfriend, dating, whatever – but, don’t. Resist the urge and instead, think back to your own teenage dating days and try to remember how you felt and how you wanted to be treated. Chances are, you were taking yourself very seriously and expected those around you – including your parents – to treat you the same way.
This does not mean that parents need to take things super seriously or treat each new boyfriend or girlfriend as a forever member of the family – just practice being warm, polite and kindly detached. No baby pictures, embarrassing stories or inquiring after “intentions.” This could cause your teen to cease sharing his or her life with you and I’m willing to bet this is not what you want. So, just take it easy and use basic social/people skills and things should be pleasant enough.
But, you’re wondering, what if I really hate this person, or disapprove of their language/family/hair color/ job/ whatever? My advice is, unless safety is an issue, shhhhhh. Just don’t feel like you need to offer up judgment. For most teenagers, boyfriends and girlfriends change as quickly as hairstyles. All that will be left after you’ve shared your “opinion” will be ill-feelings between your child and yourself. Show your child that you trust him to make good decisions and reasonable choices and you’ll further build trust during a rocky, tumultuous time.
My final word of advice is to refrain from getting sucked into the drama or in the middle – so often parents either become attached to a boyfriend or girlfriend. or somehow stuck in the middle of a romantic drama. You might really like someone who your teen decides to dump, or your teen might get his heart broken and you’ll be sorely tempted to intervene. Don’t. Your job is to be supportive, encouraging parent – not a couples therapist or Dear Abby. Keep the “just like one of her other friends” rule in mind and butt out. Warm, courteous, and kindly detached. You may have a lot of boyfriends/girlfriends to meet and you don’t want to burn yourself out!