It happens to most teenagers at some point in their lives — they meet someone from another school or town over the summer, love blooms, and then the inevitable happens — the end of summer love arrives.
Whether this is deep love of a high school student, puppy love of a younger child, or a new best friend at any age, this summer love is strong. It’s so powerful largely in part to the relationship being brief. More than likely, there wasn’t any time to have a major disagreement.
Another contributing factor was the newness of the “other.” The new boy or girl was from a different town, school, or neighborhood, so they might as well have been “foreign” as far as your son or daughter was concerned and was therefore exotic and exciting.
Most often, those in the thrall of summer love are pulled apart by the fact that one, the other, or both, have to return home.
In some cases, such as the situation depicted in the movie “Grease,” the teenagers’ return home is more figurative. While being with someone different may be exciting during the summer, the reality may be that their usual friends wouldn’t approve of the intruder. Countless Sandy’s and Danny’s didn’t get to have miraculous makeovers in order to fit in with the other person’s crowd.
And with all of this, parents hate to see their kids hurt. Emotional hurt can be so much harder to heal from than a broken arm. The wounds run deep and aren’t visible. Your child might not want to talk about the pain they’re feeling. And of course, you may feel the brunt of some of their anger at the end of their love affair if they feel you forced them apart or caused them to separate too soon.
So what can you do to protect your child? First, you have to accept that you can’t shield your son or daughter from emotional pain. You can’t and shouldn’t keep them from forming strong attachments with other kids. Even though you think you can see how a situation end, you need to let your child have the room to live their life, even with the love and pain.
If you try to tell them ahead of time that this love will end with the season, they probably won’t believe you. They’re more likely to believe that theirs will be the one love affair that will survive anything and be entirely convinced of this.
With that under consideration, you should also keep in mind that some of these relationships may very well last. After all, some friendships and love affairs were kept going with frequent and ardent letter writing. Today with cell phones, social media, and video chatting available, your teenager’s romance might have a better chance than those of earlier generations.
Learn what you can about your child’s new friend. Even if you don’t approve that your “Sandy” is dating a “Danny,” try to see the good in their relationship. Being an ally while the love blossoms will make it easier when the summer ends and they part ways, if only because they feel your support. You’ll then be able to be seen as a safe person to confide in.
If possible, get to know the new friend’s parents. You might discover that you actually live quite near one another. What can seem like an impossible distance for kids without a driver’s license might actually be feasible with the help of a little parental chauffeuring now and then.
And if your child begins to dress or act differently because of this new relationship? Don’t panic. Talk with your child. Remind them to check in with their Internal Guidance System (IGS) to be sure they stays true to themselves. And then let them be. They’ll likely change many times while they’re growing up. This is part of finding themselves. As long as they listen to their IGS, they’ll ultimately find their own way even if they wind up venturing down a different path.
In the end, whether summer love fades on its own or is pulled apart prematurely, you’ll also need to let your child grieve in their own way. This is a good time for you to tap into your own IGS and remember what it felt like when you were their age and you had an intense relationship that ended.
Don’t try to force them to talk about it before they’re ready. And if your child is ready to talk, listen with all your heart. By taking their relationships seriously, they’ll feel that you’re taking them seriously. It’ll be one of the best ways to keep the lines of communication open between the two of you as your child matures into adulthood.