Romance in adolescence is often viewed as superficial and short-lived, a sweeping sort of lust rather than a long term, committed relationship. In some senses this is true since it is unlikely that an adolescent relationship will last more than a few weeks or months nor have the depth and complexity that comes with a mature, long-term relationships. However, romance, intimacy and romantic relationships are fundamental in the lives of adolescence. They are form part of a major developmental milestone in adolescence.
Adolescence is characterized by a major shift in social dynamics; becoming more socially orientated as an adolescent strives for independence from the nuclear family. In addition, adolescents begin to experience both physical and emotional changes; becoming increasingly aware of body image, the opposite sex and their own sexuality. Therefore, it is only natural for adolescents to become curious about the meaning of romance, infatuation, and lust.
Romantic relationships create an opportunity for learning, which sets the foundations for future relationships both romantic and otherwise. Romantic relationships contribute to the development of their sense of self, which is a fundamental aspect of adolescent development. Adolescents who have had positive experiences may think of themselves as attractive partners whereas, those who have had negative experiences may have little confidence in themselves as romantic partners.
Witnessing other romantic relationships in their lives can also have an impact on how adolescents view romantic relationships. They observe their peers, older siblings and most importantly, their parents for clues as to what a relationship should look like. This is an important notion, and requires us to remember that we model the type of romantic interaction we would hope our children to have.
Romantic relationships have the potential teach adolescents about communication, emotion, empathy, identity and sex. These types of lessons assist in developing a the foundation for stable relationships in adulthood as well as, contributing to growth, resilience, independence, identity and a positive sense of self.
Although romantic relationships come with a great deal of positive value in terms of adolescent development, entering the world of dating and romance requires emotional vulnerability. This highlights the importance of fostering a positive sense self as early in life as possible. Those who are more sensitive to rejection or conflict with a weak sense of self can trigger self-doubt and feed into a low self-esteem.
Finally, it is important to also consider the social pressure that the current generation of teens are facing. Romantic relationships have always been regarded as an important aspect of adolescent development but in today’s world there is increasing pressure on the status attached to romantic relationships as well as sex and sexuality. With summer coming, there may be a great deal of pressure for that summer fling and a fear of judgement that comes with not finding it. Society places additional pressure on the physical aspects of relationships which further highlights the importance of a sense of self and ability to put boundaries in place to protect our self worth. It is a good time to explore with your teen what it means to them to be in a romantic relationship? Are their summer romance expectations inline with their values, beliefs and attitudes towards romantic relationships?