Young love! For parents, young love seems more like a hodge-podge of drama and mistakes where adult insight is somehow trumped by teenage hormones and declarations of ‘love.’ Here we have young folks who cannot even get their rooms cleaned in a timely manner, who can barely survive an hour without being attached to a cell phone, and who forget to do homework and still have to be reminded to brush their teeth, yet they somehow think they are mentally equipped to choose ‘partners’ of their own. And as with most things, the parents are the ones left shaking their heads and wondering why their teenager is dating such a loser.
The loser status of your teen’s new fling was evident the first time you met him or her. You noticed the unkempt hair, the cigarette lighter in his or her back pocket. You cringed when you heard him or her butcher the English language, and wondered how your child – a straight A student thus far, could possibly bear to be around someone that cannot use prepositions correctly. Of course, as a parent – you also noticed the choice in clothing, and immediately assumed that this new person in your teen’s life was raised by a pack of wolves, or at least in a home void of a washing machine. And all this time, you thought your son or daughter was smarter than that, and would choose people in their live who would add substance rather than bring them to a lower stoop of the food chain.
The question is what should you do about it? Do you wait it out and hope that your teenager is simply dating a loser in order to make your skin crawl. Perhaps this is the teen version of a toddler drawing on newly painted walls with a sharpie. Maybe, this is just a phase. Or, maybe this is just a life experience that your child needs to go through on his or her own, in order to make better decisions the next time. (Which there will BE a next time!)
Parents of teens are constantly trying to maintain the delicate balance of keeping the lines of communication open – and instilling good values in their kids. As a parent, you know that if you tell your child NO, or dig in your heels – the possibility that they will skirt around your back and sneak out, or do what they want anyways, potentially putting themselves in danger – become higher. And yet, despite the constant cries from your teen that you have no idea what you’re talking about – you know trouble when you see it. You have been there yourself.
The first piece of advice for parents, who think their teen is dating is loser, is this! Don’t overreact immediately. You have spent years telling your child not to judge others, and to accept other people for who they are, not how they look. If you immediately jump on the bandwagon, calling this person out – you become a hypocrite in your teen’s eyes. And, your stronger aversion toward this person WILL often make your teens attraction even more exciting. That being said, you should sit down with your teen and make sure that there is a very clear cut set of rules in place that dictate the allowances and restrictions of the relationship. If you don’t think that this kid comes from a home, then you need to give your teen an inch by allowing their new ‘friend’ to come to your house when YOU are home. This way, you are not saying they cannot, under any certain terms – see the person – but rather that there will be rules that need to be followed. It is a good idea to go over these rules while in the presence of your child, and their new love. Often times, if the new boy or girl on the scene thinks he has happened across overly strict or protective parents he or she may move on. And so be it!
Secondly, if you feel that the kid is a threat to your child, is involved in criminal behavior, or is using drugs etc. then you need to set your foot down and end the relationship before it starts. Explain to your teen – and his or her partner, that you will report all activity to the police if the situation is not cleared up immediately. And if you have to, follow through. If you sense danger, or a lack of safety – or illegal activities, it is your responsibility as a parent to keep your TEEN safe. Do so by all means.
If the person seems fairly harmless, but you just get the feeling that your son or daughter could do better in the scope of human relationships, talk to your teen. Find out what it is about this new person that they are attracted to. Try to understand where they are coming from. You should still set rules and boundaries, especially in the beginning of the relationship, and let time take its course. Often times, parents get up in arms about relationships that last approximately 2 weeks.
Another tidbit of advice is for parents to do a little research on their own. Check out the kids that your son or daughters are hanging around with on Facebook. Find out where they live. Ask friends, neighbors, fellow parents, teachers and other people about this new kid on the block and see what you can find out. You might be surprised just how much information is available on the internet. And by all means, remember that it is NOT an invasion of privacy for you to go through your child’s phone and make sure that everything you see on there is appropriate for your child. As long as you pay the bills, (which 76% of parents do), you have every right to scroll through their texts and online activity. Again, this is a parental responsibility, not an invasion of your teen’s privacy. Your number one role in their life is to keep them safe.
In the long run, your judgment and initial opinion is probably spot on. Hopefully, as long as you play the part of understanding parent who doesn’t fly off the deep end immediately – your teen will eventually realize they are dating under their standards. Don’t be afraid to talk to your teen candidly about the characteristics that make relationships healthy, and try to instill your teen with confidence to make wise decisions when it comes to choosing friends and flings!
Lastly, according to statistics from a Reuter’s survey, the average teen relationships last 3 weeks to 4 months. Hopefully, if your teen is dating a loser, they will have the presence of mind to figure it out on their own and the relationship will fall on the low end of the scale.