Your child has a significant other - now what?

Local mom shares her tips for handling her sons' long-term relationships

Tips for handling kids' long-term relationships

Long-term relationships for teens – they can be fairly difficult and tricky to navigate through for parents. How close is too close? How much space is dangerous? Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from my sons, each having relationships that lasted more than a year.


10. Maintain a cordial relationship with the boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents. However, it may be best to not socialize and begin a friendship outside of the one your children have because after the breakup, you probably cannot keep the adults as friends. 


9. While relying on your child’s cell phone as a method to stay in touch is certainly reasonable, it does not hurt to have the phone number to any friend’s house or parents, especially their boyfriend or girlfriend. Cell phone batteries die, plans change, and you simply want to have a way to stay in touch.


8. As the calendar pages turn, holidays and birthdays will surely arise. It is appropriate to purchase a small gift for your child’s friend in the same manner you would if your child had a same sex best friend. In return, if you receive a gift, ask yourself if it makes you feel uncomfortable or inappropriate to accept.


7. Always make sure your child has enough money to cover his own expenses on a “date.” Though your child may be an invited guest to the movies, an amusement park, bowling or other teen activity, it is best if they pay their own way to avoid any misunderstandings, hurt feelings or feelings of indebtedness.

READ MORE: What to do when teen romance rages?


6. If neither child is a driver, each set of parents should agree to share driving responsibilities. If one parent drives to an event, the other may pick up; or, if one parent drives this Friday night, the other should drive next Saturday night or whatever other equitable arrangement can be made in advance. Sharing as many responsibilities as possible will help avoid any potential hurt feelings or problems in the future.


5. Although you may enjoy your child’s friend’s company, maintain a friendly but reasonably detached relationship. This is a difficult balance to find; if you become too aloof your child will think you do not like their friend, and if you ask too many questions you may be considered a nosy and prying parent rather than simply concerned. I’ve been here and it is the hardest medium to achieve; in fact, you may have to make daily adjustments.


4. Welcoming your child’s friend into your home for family holidays and celebrations is encouraged as well as allowing your child to participate in such activities outside of your home. The ultimate goal is to allow both children to grow from the experiences they have while maintaining family harmony. However, this does not mean that either child should not participate in their own family activities in exchange for their boyfriend or girlfriend’s family plans. Use your best judgment.


3. Avoid answering opinion questions to your child. I have been asked, “What do you think of Sally?” This is a moment to pause and think carefully. My favorite response is, “Are you happy?” It may not be correct to answer a question with a question, but unless you have a safety concern about the relationship, it is better to avoid giving your actual thoughts when your child is probably looking for approval.


READ MORE: Is your teen using dangerous apps?

2. This may sound hard or cold, but when taking pictures at family events, ensure that you have some of your family without your child’s friends as well as including them. It would be a shame to have the only pictures of a landmark occasion be painful for your child even in an age of digital photo editing. My own mother replaced a face in a favorite family photo with that of a celebrity until she finally surrendered that the picture was inappropriate (though funny).


1. Simply remember, this is your child’s relationship, not your own. I do still struggle with this one. At times, I want to offer advice or thoughts, and though I may still do so now and then, it is best to avoid this situation. I try to imagine if I am acting like a mother-in-law that I would resent; if I am leaning in that direction, I try to step back. Again, if safety is a concern such as substance abuse, physical or verbal abuse, or other extenuating circumstances, that is a completely different topic. Overall, it is best to trust your child’s judgment, sit back and watch them grow.

Sharon MacGregor is a freelance writer and columnist living in Sullivan County. She and her husband have been married for more than 20 years and are raising two man-cubs with both old-fashioned and modern parenting styles.

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