Valentine’s Day is coming and if you have a teenager so is teenage drama. There are two main issues which parents and faced with around Valentine’s Day. The first issue is if your teenager is not dating someone. Your teenager is embarrassed and feels like no one will ever love them. The second issue is if your teenager is dating someone. Then there are issues such as gifts, the cost of the gifts and how late they can stay out on Valentine’s night. To many adults some of these issues seem very clear cut, but to some teenagers it’s a matter of life or death.
Let’s start with the first issue, your teen is not dating anyone. This can make them feel worthless, ugly and they may even feel no one will ever love them. The teenage years are very confusing especially when it comes to a teenager’s self-esteem. Most teens are trying to live up to their image of a “normal teenager.” If your teenager is not dating, explain to them that many teenagers do not date in high school. In fact, many people do not start dating until college. Try explaining some of your high school experiences if you feel that would help. Also point out their positive traits and things they do that you are proud of. Help their self-esteem by pointing out things they may over look. Try to change the focus slightly for them. Discuss that St. Valentine’s Day is about being with people who you love and care about. Maybe you can go out as a family for dinner or they have some friends who also are not dating and maybe they can do something together. The main point is let them know whether someone is dating or not it has nothing to do with their self-esteem and when they are ready they will start dating too. Do as much as you can to destruct the “average teenage image” that is incorrect.
If your teen does have a girlfriend or boyfriend, there are a number of different issues you get to confront. The first issue is gifts. Many teenagers have no concept of money and plan these elaborate gifts for their valentine. As they start to assembly the gifts, the quickly determine that they cannot afford everything they planed on buying. At this point, many teens expect mom and dad to help out because it’s Valentine’s Day. This is when mom and dad need to discuss with their teenager about budgeting money. Also it’s important to discuss what is appropriate and not appropriate at their age for gifts. For example, diamond earrings from Tiffany’s are not appropriate. Instead, may be they can buy flowers, a card or go to an outlet and look at costume jewelry. Also explain it’s really the thought that counts not how much or where they purchased the gift. For example, if their Valentine has a teddy bear collection that would be appropriate and showed you had been paying attention to the things that are important to them.
When your teen is dating another major issue is curfew and what they will be doing. Since St. Valentine’s Day is a romantic day, many teenagers may be planning on having sex. Unfortunately, in today’s world teens are becoming sexually active often around the sixth grade. However, typically sixth graders do not consider oral sex as being sexually active. Therefore, St. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to discuss sexuality with your teenager. You can explain your expectations, the consequences of being sexually active (pregnancy and STDs) and precautions they need to take if they decide to become sexually active. Just because you discuss precautions doesn’t mean you are giving your approval and you can tell your teenager that fact.
Besides discussing sexual activity take this opportunity to discuss drinking alcohol or using drugs. Many teens believe vaping is now safe, but we still do not have all the answers and teens need to beware of these facts. They also need to be aware that using some drugs just once can cause someone to die or become addicted. Again they need the real facts so they can make responsible choices. For example, antidepressants and drugs for ADHD do not interact well with street dugs such as molly or pink and can result in death.
These are a few examples of what parents of teenagers face today. My best advice is not to avoid the subjects. Look at this as an opportunity to improve your communication with your teenager and to ensure they are getting the appropriate information. You cannot stop what they will encounter or do once they walk out your front door, but you can do your best to prepare them and to let them know you are always there no matter what. If they make a mistake, you prefer to help them deal with it appropriately rather than hide it from you.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.