Love and Infatuation in Teenagers

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
A first love always occupies a special place. - Lee Konitz
A first love always occupies a special place. - Lee Konitz

A teenager's first crush may be one of the memorable experiences of his life. Falling in love, or perhaps more appropriately becoming infatuated with a peer, classmate or even a celebrity, is perfectly normal if not expected during the adolescent period. Nevertheless, some parents don't want to face what's virtually inevitable and the potential consequences that can come with teen love and infatuation.

Serious Business

Infatuation by definition is a short-lived passion; it passes quickly -- but try telling that to your "crazy in love" teen. Writing off your teen's strong feelings for a special someone as nonsense or silly "puppy love" is one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make when it comes to your teen's romantic pursuits, warns Dr. Paula Braverman, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Parents should also bear in mind that the less supportive they are when their teen falls in love, the more attractive his love interest will become, points out Dr. Michelle S. Barratt, a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Texas–Houston Medical Center.

Take A Walk Down Memory Lane

Remembering what if felt like to be a teenager in love can help you empathize with your love or lust struck adolescent. Writing "l love Jimmy or Jenny" 100 times or drawing hearts in your school notebook may sound like a childish waste of time today, but it was probably extremely important to you at the time. Forcing your teen to call it quits with a girlfriend or boyfriend because you fear that they're having sex or you feel they're spending too much time together may have life-altering effects in some cases/ Even though the majority of adults find happy and enduring relationships after a first love ends, some adults continue to believe that they could have a loving and fulfilling marriage with their high school sweetheart had their parents not interfered, explains Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. in an article published in June, 2009 in "Psychology Today."

Healthy Relationships

Teach your teen that a healthy love relationship involves far more than staring into each others' eyes, holding hands and talking about their deep, mutual love. Falling in love is the easy part. Making it last requires mutual respect, trust, honesty and being your true self rather than the type of person you think your love interest is looking for. For example, your teen daughter is inauthentic and dishonest if she tells her boyfriend she loves playing with his video games but secretly finds them boring and can't wait until the game is over. Disrespect, verbal or physical assaults and exerting control over a partner are classic signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Dating And Sex

Two madly in love teenagers each with raging hormones can reasonably be expected to want to get physical. Explain that using birth control such as oral contraceptives not only prevent pregnancy but faithfully using condoms can stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Some parents may worry that encouraging the use of birth control is condoning sexual activity. Although abstinence may be the best policy during the teen years, the truth of the matter is that nine in ten teens have had intercourse by age 20, reports HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Breakups

Some teens might have had a romantic relationship end when they desperately wanted it to go on. Others might have strong romantic feelings for someone who doesn't feel the same way. Be available to talk to your teen and explain that crying -- while painful at the time -- is actually part of the healing process as it helps let go of intense feelings. A teenager typically moves on from a breakup in a relatively short period of time -- perhaps a few days, weeks or possibly months in some instances.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.