WHAT IS LOVE: While we may assume relationships at this age are still “puppy love”, Dr. Bax stresses that there’s no magic age where you can definitively fall in love. “There are some adults who have not learned what love really is! It’s more about being capable than it is about age, and having the important components: the intimacy, mutual support, companionship and wanting to be together. When it’s more about care and commitment and less about status achievement, I think that’s when love occurs.” For teens, their capacity for this depends on their maturity, previous experience in relationships and their relationship role models.
THE COMMON CONCERN: Many parents worry about the misconceptions about love that their children see in the media. Hannah Long, mom of three teens, says, “I think my biggest fear for my kids is that the Internet is the first place they go for advice and information, and what is portrayed as love online and in the media is often misleading and unrealistic.” Adds the very insightful 16-year-old Yolanda: “Falling in love is not the same as in the movies.”
THE LOVE LESSON: While Dr. Bax recommends limiting media use and making sure what your child watches is developmentally appropriate, she stresses that it’s also important to have discussions about what your child is seeing, even asking them if they think the magical and transformative messages about romantic love are realistic. She also points out that “while media is a strong force, our children can also be influenced greatly by the adults in their lives, and it’s important to realize that what they see in relationships, whether in their own parents’, their friends’ parents’, or even how a teacher or other adult talks about their partner in passing, also has a very strong influence.”
WE ASKED KIDS… HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE? “Yep. With Jackie. I want to marry her, but she wants to marry someone else.” HARRY, 4 “Yes, I love my mommy. I was born and she fed me, and I turned 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5.” DECLAN, 5 “No, but...