Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MCFARLAND: Advice for teens: Don’t be blinded by ‘love’

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 12/24/2013

For my last column of 2013, I’m wrapping up my series on teen relationships.

As many of you know, being a parent is one of the most rewarding and difficult tasks you ever will undertake. In this country, we train people for many jobs and roles. But, when it comes to our most valuable resource — our children — we require no training, no prior knowledge and no experience. One of the most important things you can do to become a better parent is to learn about parenting. This also applies to healthy relationships and teaching our children about healthy relationships. Most people learn about relationships from their family, friends and by “trial and error.”

For my last column of 2013, I’m wrapping up my series on teen relationships.

As many of you know, being a parent is one of the most rewarding and difficult tasks you ever will undertake. In this country, we train people for many jobs and roles. But, when it comes to our most valuable resource — our children — we require no training, no prior knowledge and no experience. One of the most important things you can do to become a better parent is to learn about parenting. This also applies to healthy relationships and teaching our children about healthy relationships. Most people learn about relationships from their family, friends and by “trial and error.”

However, there is a great deal of research about healthy relationships and marriage too. What I am about to share with you are tips that were gathered from conversations with older teens and young adults in their early twenties and represent some of the things they wished they had known when they were younger.

• Develop yourself first. Forge your own identity, pursue your own interests and acquire a solid sense of self. The most healthy relationships are made by two people who have a solid sense of self. And don’t ignore your friends after starting a romantic relationship.

• Look for a person with integrity and character. Remember, you can’t change someone. Have a vision of what kind of relationship or marriage you want, and let that vision guide your relationship choices — “Decide. Don’t slide.”

• Get to know and/or date a variety of people. Slow down your emotional desire to be in a serious relationship, even if all of your friends are.

• Handle your attractions with your “brain turned on and eyes wide open.” Girls in particular can become “glued” to an unhealthful relationship by getting sexually involved.

• Have a clear boundary on physical affection and discuss and agree on it. Don’t wait until you’re in the “heat of the moment.” Decide before you are with a boyfriend or girlfriend what your boundaries are.

• Always remember that it’s easy to be “blinded,” even fooled, by hormones and infatuation. The feelings and emotions are real and they are what gets love going, but it isn’t love initially. Don’t read too much into these early feelings; they can sputter out as quickly as they come.

• Remember that sex can create a child. Ask yourself if you’re ready emotionally and financially to be a good mother or father. Children deserve committed parents who are able and ready to parent together.

To have a great relationship someday, you need to develop and grow yourself and figure out how to be interesting to a partner who is your equal and who you find attractive in many ways.

Healthy relationships and marriages don’t “just happen.” You have to been intentional about who you chose to spend time with, get to know better, and make a deeper commitment to.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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