Long before I used online dating to meet people, I met a boy, my first love, the old-fashioned way, using pre-millennial methods. Like most other teens, I met him in high school.
Teen dating has really changed since the 90s. I suppose that’s a common thing people believe as we age—that things were so much different “way back when.” However, I’d like to think my perspective on teen romance is still relevant today, whether teens are meeting online or in real life.
My parents had given me no real rules for teenage dating.
They kept a safe distance and didn’t seem to worry about me, as I was never one to get into trouble. They didn’t overreact to try to stop me from dating, as difficult as that can be for parents of teenagers.
My first boyfriend showed up at my locker on Valentine’s Day and dropped a card, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a CD into my lap as I sat with my back against my locker door at the end of the school day. I felt like I was being showered with gifts. It was our first Valentine’s Day as a couple, and it was a brand-new relationship, barely a month old. This was all so new to me, and I was green to the feelings that were developing.
The following year, he brought me flowers. It’s a secret hope of many teen girls to receive a bouquet of flowers as a symbol of a boy’s feelings for her. By this time in the relationship, I had learned more about what it meant to be in love.
Within six months of receiving those flowers, we had broken up.
I was devastated. And I showed it by wallowing, eating junk food, and watching a romance movie starring Julia Roberts with a friend.
As we age, we start to forget those “first” feelings from our youth. Like how it felt to get flowers for the first time, our first love, our first heart break. We tend to think that teens are still so young that the feelings they experience likely won’t last. It is easy, as adults, to minimize the rush of feelings teens get from experiencing romance for the first time.
Through all those ups and downs of a first romance, I never got the feeling that my parents were making light of what it felt like to be young and in love.
The mistake many of us make is losing touch with our memories of what it felt like going through the bumpy ride of adolescence.
We don’t give our teens credit for knowing their own feelings. And we fail to recognize that however they feel is real to them in that moment.
Yes, young love may be impetuous, and is certainly not meant to last forever. It can be tempting to tell this to teens. However, I wish to pose the question to parents: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be able to understand, relate to, and empathize with your child during some of the most intense experiences of their young lives?
Of course, parents have been through it already and most often do know best. But I would suggest trying to find common ground with your teen by looking back on your own teen years. Try not to negate the feelings they are feeling. Hopefully you’ll keep the lines of communication open enough to help them survive that first love, and adolescence as a whole, unscathed.