Encouraging? Protective? Cautious? How should you play being a support when your teen brings a first boyfriend or girlfriend home?
Meeting your child’s first boyfriend or girlfriend is a real coming of age moment. How do you make sure that in years to come you all remember it with fondness rather than looking back and cringing?
Don’t try and get down with the kids, you’ll only embarrass yourself and them. Once you’re introduced be friendly and interested, not overbearing. Ask questions about what they’ve been up to recently: what film they’ve just been to or what a recent party was like rather than grilling them about their life history, career prospects or where they see themselves in five years’ time.
Never criticise your child’s choice of companion. It will only create resentment and possibly rebellion. If your concerns stem from a serious concern choose a good moment for a calm and sensible chat rather than going on the attack.
If it looks like they are going to be spending a lot of time together have a ground rules talk. Establish how long they can spend together during the week, whether you feel comfortable about them spending time in the bedroom alone together. If not, agree on some time when they can have some privacy in the living room or den away from the rest of the family. Also you might want to think about contacting the parents of the boyfriend or girlfriend to make sure that your wishes are respected.
If you haven’t already, take a deep breath and brace yourself for ‘that’ conversation. It’s a harsh reality of life that kids are sexually experienced at an earlier age than previous generations and it’s essential that your children have all the facts and are making the best decisions for them. Even if they know all about the technicalities they still need a parent’s guidelines and advice on when is the right time for them. Point out the benefits of waiting until they are ready (or older), give some idea of how to deal with peer pressure around sex, as well as stressing how disruptive teenage pregnancy is.
For useful advice and insights, it’s worth checking out the parent pages of www.direct.gov.uk
Have a discussion about what it means to have a partner, that it might not last forever so it’s about enjoying the time together and learning something about your partner and yourself. Remember, a teenage relationship is not the same as an adult one so the advice you give may well be different to that which you might give to a girl-friend.
Try and recall what it felt like if it all ends. Nothing feels worse than that first break up and that’s when they’ll need their mum’s shoulder to cry on. Be on hand for treats, trips and diversions but respect their space if they just want to lie under the duvet and mope for a few days. Sympathetic advice rather than I told-you-so is a good tone to strive for.
It is of course entirely your choice if you want to bring out all the photos of your darling child on their potty, aged two. But you can kiss goodbye to any future confidences should you do so!