Parents, STOP Focusing on LOVE.

posterWhile presenting the “Can I Kiss You?” workshop for parents of teens, many moms and dads tell me how they stress the importance of “LOVE” in a dating relationship.

Do you want love to be the focus of a child discovering relationships? Have you seen a love-crazed tween or teenager recently? Getting them to focus, besides think, is not an easy task. Not exactly what most moms and dads want in their 14 year old.

While I value love, we have to realize we are talking to children who are still learning about friendships, love, and connections. They are not in a position of age or life to probably be making love-based decisions.

Do you know what happens when a child focuses on love (yes, your teenager is a child)? They focus on LOVE. They think they are in LOVE when actually they are infatuated – maybe even in mere lust.

When they believe they are “in love,” they are likely to get serious faster, including with sexual activity. In the mind of many, love=trust=”all the way.”

When focusing on love, the teen wants to hear the word, “love.” Often they will say, “I love you” only to see if the partner will say it back.

Instead of stressing love, put love in PERSPECTIVE for your teen.

Ask your teenager about the different stages of a relationship. Typically, love is NOT one of the first stages in a relationship. Be prepared to provide some examples of stages people go through such as: pure physical attraction; feeling like you must be near each other 24/7; and being comfortable with each other’s independence.

EXAMPLE: First 2 weeks: Every time you touch your boyfriend on his leg or hold his hand, he wants to grab your hand and hold on – letting you know how he loves being with you. Weeks 3-4: While you are touching your boyfriend’s hand, he doesn’t grab your hand. Instead, he grabs a soda and is talking on his cell phone with the other hand.

Does he care less about you than he did in the first 2 weeks? That is a dangerous assumption to make. Your relationship is moving into a new stage and you need to understand how stages will differ. The more important question for your teenager is, “At what stage are you most likely to recognize love?”

A lot of us think we’ll know love when we see it—or by what it isn’t–but many of us don’t really have an experience or opportunity to observe true love in action. Please share below what you consider to be the intermediate stages of a relationship that culminate in a relationship bonded by the highest form of love.

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