Daughter's Having Boy Trouble? When to Butt In

Jeanne Sager

Susane ColasantiIf you're lucky, that teenage friendship that died over a boy was revived quickly after.

For me it took years -- and marriage -- for us to grow up. But now our kids are best friends, and that boy happens to be both forgotten and gay.

The love triangle is a well-worn trope in shows like Parenthood and even popular teen lit author Susane Colasanti's new novel, Something Like Fate (a spot-on look at teen life).

The reason Colasanti's novel works? Because it's true. 

Blame pure science. Teenagers -- boys and girls alike -- are still a mess of roiling hormones. And it can take even a kid with her (or his) head planted directly on her shoulders and send priorities out the window.

So when should parents step in? Should they ever?

According to child psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, it's pretty natural for parents to want to play the caped crusader.

"Parents often want to step in and solve problems for their kids, especially when there is conflict between friends," Hartstein tells The Stir.

Stop right there!

"Children and teens need to learn how to work it out for themselves," Hartstein warns. "They need to learn how to negotiate, how to have open conversations, and how to talk honestly with their friends. Childhood is the time that this is learned and is what helps make more balanced adults.

"Initially, if there is conflict regarding a boy, which, as we all know, is just one of the many things teenage girls argue about, it should be treated in the same way: Let the girls work it out."

So when do you go from helicopter parent to properly involved?

"Parent should step in if and when the disagreement begins to get bigger than a teen can handle," Hartstein advises. "Specifically, if the group of friends starts to take sides and then gossip and rumors start, etc. 

"It's important if this happens for a parent to get involved and work to help prevent any increase in bullying behaviors, which can develop out of the gossip in very damaging ways."

Parents can prevent a Phoebe Prince type of situation by being aware without overbearing.

How to start the conversation with your daughter:

1. Ask open-ended questions of your daughter, and encourage her to talk to you about what she wants regarding her friends and the boy in question. 

2. Encourage her to think about the pros and cons of having a boyfriend vs. her girlfriends, and what would happen if one of her friends dated him over her. 

3. The more openly you can communicate and the more validating you can be to your daughter, the more likely she will be to talk to you about these things. 

4. Don't fix it! Help her problem-solve ways to mend the relationships.

Have you had this discussion with your teen?


Image via Susane Colasanti

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