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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

For Parents: After the candy’s been eaten

February 15, 2009

Fuzzy about love and relationships

Fuzzy about love and relationships

February 15th… the morning after the day every single single in this much married land is plagued with the thought “No date! I’m such a loser!” Of course from my perspective as an online advisor, the urge to merge is pretty much a year-round thing. So is the general cluelessness regarding what healthy relationships are all about. And it’s skewing younger all the time. Take these two oh so typical emails the likes of which I receive several times a week:

Any guy I crush over does not feel the same about me. They always have a reason why I’m not ‘the one.’ I need help! What can I do to get guys to like me???” – 6th grader in love

And this one:

“I’m a 14 old guy and I’m still a single (?!) Many of my friends are in a relationship and I really wanted one of my own. How can I make myself comfortable when being around girls, especially the one I have a crush on?? It seems that I’m always nervous and I tend to force something that I’ll regret (because I’m always excited whenever I talk to the girl I like and I don’t want them to realize that I’m an annoying person and even a stalker)!!”

Tweens and teens are under way too much pressure to couple up. Put that on top of (or underlying) the stress they already feel to make the grade academically, athletically and in the friends department and it’s easy to see why the “solutions” 11-14 year olds come up with for their Boyfriend/Girlfriend challenges aren’t the most carefully thought out ideas.

None of us would dream of handing over the car keys to an unschooled young driver, because they’re unsafe at any speed. A danger to themselves and others.  But what schooling are we giving our tweens and teens about the road trip into relationships? I know all about the take-away messages they get from friends and pop culture. But what values and skills are we parents giving them in terms of dating and relating?

We hear the word relationship and we think sex. Middle school kids hear it and think the same. And that’s a big part of the problem! The focus is all wrong. The result? A whole lot of ignorance about what really matters in a relationship – mutual respect, trust, honesty, open communication and shared values. So they swerve, skid, careen out of control, and crack up time and time again. Experience is a great teacher, but are they actually building any positive relationship skills? Based on the questions they email me, I’m guessing, not a whole bunch.

We need to change this. They need us to educate them because what they don’t know can and does hurt them. It hurts others too.

To learn more about the cosequences of fuzzy relationship smarts, check out my review of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp.

Filed under: Holidays,Parenting,Parenting Books,Tips — Tags: , , — Annie @ 4:32 pm


  1. Interesting! I think a lot of people don’t know what they’re looking for in a relationship and also don’t have any idea of the sort of person who would actually make a good partner for them. It’s true there’s a lot of societal pressure to pair up, but biologically it’s what we’re made for, so I believe the drive is largely internal as well. – Happily in love and not a fan of Valentine’s Day

    Comment by Fayette — February 15, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  2. Maybe parents are so scared of their teenagers getting into relationships at that age that they aren’t talking about it with their kids at all– then, of course, the only guidance the kids get is from their equally clueless friends! I wonder how many parents have the “relationship conversation” in addition to the sex conversation?

    Comment by Sarah — February 16, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  3. Yes, Sarah. An ongoing series of conversations. Conversations that include open, honest discussions about relationships, sex, sexuality, values, standards, assertiveness training, communication and decision-making skill building. All of that over a period of years, the focus and tone of which change and grow along with the child/tween/teen.

    Granted, it may be awkward to talk about some of this stuff with your son or daughter. And maybe you don’t feel like you should be leading these kinds discussions due to the fact that perhaps the relationship choices you’ve made haven’t been all that exemplary. If you need guidance before you start talking about relationships with your kid (and listening to what they have to say) then visit the library (non-fiction section… 649’s ) The resources are there.

    Putting it off isn’t a viable (or responsible) option. As is reflected by this cautionary tale of a baby born to a 15 year old mom and 13 year old dad.

    Comment by Annie — February 16, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

  4. i feel that relationships should be an ongoing discussion with teens and pre teens. our 5th graders have a class every year called ‘family life’. the basic changes in boys and girls is discussed. we also give the correct terms for parts of the body.

    we should all realize that relationship does not mean ‘sex ship’. it’s about getting to know someone and spending time together doing things that you both enjoy. these discussions should be available in schools and in churches with parent’s consent.

    Comment by s futado — March 1, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  5. During my daughter’s teen years we hosted the “Sex Talk” sleep-over each year. I provided the space and everyone brought food. The woman who led it was beloved and trusted by the girls. (I mostly stayed out of sight and fixed pancakes for breakfast before church.)

    Comment by Patti Mallett — February 27, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

  6. PS- I’m not sure that’s what it was called. That’s what my daughter and I refer to when talking about it, now that she’s a mama of two little ones. LOL

    Comment by Patti Mallett — February 27, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

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