Dear Your Teen:
My 14-year-old daughter has a boyfriend. The other day she came home with hickeys from a different boy. We didn’t overreact, but I did ask her if she and her boyfriend had ended their relationship. She said no, but she seemed a little down. So, I asked how things were going with her boyfriend. She just shrugged. It made me wonder whether she had talked to him about her feelings or whether she was just going to move away and start a relationship with another boys. When I suggested that she talk to him about how she feels, she got defensive.
I don’t want to put old-fashioned pressures on her nor do I want her to feel like she’s a bad person if she likes someone new. However, if her boyfriend started flirting with other girls but stayed with her, I am certain that would hurt her. I want her to also consider her current boyfriend’s feelings. I don’t know if I handled it the right way.
How should I approach the situation without coming across as judgmental or like I am telling her what to do?
I really admire what you have tried to accomplish with your daughter. The discussion of teenage relationship problems and the complicated feelings that are invariably present is always difficult. Now add a young teen daughter and a mother and the discussion becomes exponentially complicated. I have to say—I love how you approached your daughter. You gave her an opportunity to talk about her feelings and in my opinion it does not sound like you came across as judgmental. Your daughter shrugged and got a bit defensive in response to your attempt to engage her in conversation. That is not a problematic response at all.
Discussing Teen Dating Problems
I also agree with you that it is important for your daughter to be empathic in this situation. It is important that she is aware of not only her own feelings but to also consider those of her boyfriend. Keep in mind, however, that your daughter is only 14 years old and is very new to the dance of teenage relationships. She is likely sorting out her own feelings toward her boyfriend and is not ready to have a discussion with him yet.
Please keep this in mind and be patient with your daughter as she tries to figure things out. Let your daughter know that you are always available to talk to her about feelings in both this and in any other situation. Be patient. Do a lot of listening. Ask your daughter how she thinks she should deal with the situation. As for teen dating advice, teens love when you listen to and honor their opinions without telling them what to do. Trust me that this will go a long way.
I wish you luck as you continue to support your daughter as she begins to navigate the tender and confusing feelings that we all encounter in relationships.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language. She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website drbarbaragreenberg.com.