How to Cope With Your Teen’s First Romance

Plus: Warning signs of a toxic relationship


Published:

Remember when you first fell in love as a teen? The sweaty palms. The butterflies. The time spent finding the perfect outfit for a date, or the hours in front of the mirror styling your hair just so. Yes, falling in love is a rite of passage, but for parents, it can be difficult to manage the ups and downs of teen love. How can you help your child navigate these relationships? When should you take a hands-off approach and when should you intervene? 

 

Stay Positive

Parents might be quick to point out all of the negative aspects of teen romance, but it’s important to stay positive, says Kate McNeill-Paquin, an Apex-based family coach. “Love can be such a strong emotion, and new love is like nothing they have ever felt. Helping them to see the positives in themselves and their life regardless of this new love will help them stay in balance,” she says. 

Instead of complaining that you don’t see your teen as often or that he is always on his phone, understand that your teen will be very protective of this new love.

But what if you don’t really like your child’s significant other?

“You don’t have to like them,” McNeill-Paquin says. “You are not dating them.”

Jonathan Hetterly, a licensed professional counselor with Southeast Psych in Charlotte, advises parents to remember that they are teenagers. “They are not supposed to be mature or view relationships from an adult perspective,” he says. “Most of what they’re experiencing is new to them and can be tremendously awkward. Give everybody a little bit of grace. No one is a finished product.”

It’s also important to be empathetic, according to Hetterly. “Whatever criticisms or worries you have, attach it to behaviors,” Hetterly says. “Don’t condemn a person. Behaviors are things people can change. When you condemn a person, you’re attaching their character and inherent worth.”

 

Be Available and Take a Passive Approach

The best way you can support your teen is by simply be available. Know that if you’ve had a supportive and open relationship with your teen, then she is more likely to be open to parental guidance. But if you have a history of being too controlling and overbearing, your teen might be reluctant to keep the lines of communication open.

“Don’t assume they need guidance,” Hetterly says. “Be available. Be a sideline consultant. But don’t automatically insert yourself into the situation. It is their life. Honor their autonomy and new experiences.”

As you notice their relationship growing, make sure your child knows you are there for them, but take a passive role. Asking a ton of questions will cause them to retreat. 

Make sure your teen knows they can talk to you, especially about sex. “You want them to know they can talk to you without reaction, meaning they can tell you what is going on and you will listen and help without getting angry,” McNeill-Paquin says.

“An available parent has the opportunity to be sought out and seen as supportive,” Hetterly adds. “The second biggest variable is listening. Listening well is more important and speaking when it comes to communication with teenagers.”

 

Establish Boundaries

As your teen gains independence and his own relationships outside of the family, it’s important to establish boundaries. Simply put? Don’t get overinvolved. For example, you might want to think twice before following your teen’s partner on social media. 

“Would you be friends or have a relationship with this person without your child’s involvement? If the answer is no, then I don’t follow or interact on social media,” McNeill-Paquin says.

The same goes for text messages. McNeill-Paquin says it’s fine to respond to texts you might receive from your teen’s partner, but you shouldn’t initiate them.

 

Coping With Breakups

Just like falling in love, having your heart broken is also a rite of passage. How can you help your child through this?

“The best thing to do is follow their lead,” McNeill-Paquin says. “If they are in denial don’t try to push it. They will come to it on their own time.” And remember to be patient. “If they want to cry, you let them cry. Never say anything bad about the person, because teen relationships usually go through two or three breakups before the relationship is actually over. Listen, and say very little.”

Myra Wright is a North Carolina-based freelance writer and former publisher of Piedmont Parent. As a mom of three kids (ages 11, 16, and 19), she frequently writes about parenting and teens.


Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship

While parents should generally follow a hands-off approach with teen romance, there are times when intervention is necessary. If you believe your child is engaged in an unhealthy or toxic relationship, look for these warning signs:

* Relationships outside of the toxic relationship start to suffer 

* A separation from an activity or friends that have meaning to your child

* Your child experiences more dread and unhappiness than happiness and positive anticipation toward their significant other

* Saying no to a partner’s request is met with hostility, accusations, or emotional manipulation

* Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse

* Lack of privacy, trust, and personal space

* Blaming other people for one’s own emotions

* Paranoia and lack of trust

* Belittling and hypercriticism 

* Major changes in behavior or self-esteem

* Nervousness when they cannot text or reach the other party

* Anger and sleep issues

* Inability to make decisions without that person’s approval

Sources: Jonathan Hetterly and Kate McNeill-Paquin

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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Mint Museum Randolph
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More information

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Where:
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Cost: Free to military service men and women

Where:
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More information

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More information

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Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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Mint Museum Randolph
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

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Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

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View map »


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Carowinds Paladium
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View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $21-$31

Where:
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2024 Redbud Drive
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: USNWC
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Website »

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This family-friendly event features craft brews, wine, cider, live music and the best food trucks in Charlotte. Bring the whole family, including your dogs. Along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sycamore Brewing
2161 Hawkins St.
, NC
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Treat the kids and yourself to a fun night out! Drop kids off to run, play and dance. Pizza dinner is included.

Cost: $25

Where:
Romp n' Roll NW Charlotte
3611 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road
207
, NC
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The businesses at the Warehouses on White are pleased to host each first Friday for a night of fun and food!

Cost: Free

Where:
Warehouse on White
130 W. White St.
Rock Hill, SC
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

Celebrate the 4th of July at the annual fireworks show, which will occur on both July 3 and July 4.

Cost: $45+, children 3-5 receive free admission with Pre-K Pass

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
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Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Website »

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Carowinds will pay tribute to military service men and women by honoring their bravery during Military Days. Active, inactive and retired service members are granted free admission to Carowinds by...

Cost: Free to military service men and women

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
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Website »

More information

This cultural celebration will include The Spectacle of Color Parade, a street party and festive foods.

Cost: $45+, children ages 3-5 free entry with a Pre-K Pass

Where:
Carowinds Paladium
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

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Kick off Independence Day with a 4-mile race and 1-mile kids’ run. There will be no race-day registration. The event starts in Midtown with a family friendly finish line festival at Park...

Cost: $7-$42+

Where:
Metropolitan
1111 Metropolitan Ave.
Charlotte, NC
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Sponsor: New Dominion
Website »

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Bring the kids, strollers or dogs to complete 7.4 miles, 7.4 kilometers or 1.7 miles.

Cost: $25+

Where:
The Huntersville Business Park
13420 Reese Blvd. W.
Huntersville, NC
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Before the afternoon and evening festivities, enjoy a morning parade. The parade will travel down Highway 49 beginning at Captain Steve’s Restaurant and ending at Robinson Ave. off...

Cost: Free

Where:
Highway 49
Harrisburg, NC
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Welcome new citizens to the Charlotte community at a U.S. Oath and Naturalization ceremony. Learn more about the meaning of citizenship, democracy, immigration and freedom, and participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Charlotte Museum of History
3500 Shamrock Drive
, NC
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Parade will feature vehicles, walkers, trucks, military equipment, horses and fire trucks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Indian Trail
Indian Trail, NC


Website »

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Decorate your bikes and wagons at the Town Hall Green at 5:15pm for the People's Parade, which will begin at 6:15pm. Decorations will be provided. Picnic in Stumptown Park, beginning at 6pm,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stumptown Park
120 S. Trade St.
Matthews, NC
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Website »

More information

Stars versus Stripes will feature some of the best collegiate players in the nation with fireworks to follow.

Cost: $19+

Where:
BB&T Stadium
324 S. Mint St.
, NC
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Website »

More information

Enjoy music outdoors with the family. Dates: April 28, May 3, May 17, June 7, June 14, July 4, Aug. 2, Aug. 23, Sept. 6 and Sept. 20.

Cost: Free

Where:
Davidson Village Green
Intersection of Main Street and Concord Road
, NC
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Watch Kannapolis take on West Virginia!

Cost: TBA

Where:
Atrium Health Ballpark
1 Cannon Baller Way
Kannapolis, NC
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The DJ and beverage garden will kick off at 6pm, and featured bands will start at 7pm. Food will be available for purchase.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Belmont
Main Street
Belmont, NC
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All Kids Workshop attendees must be accompanied by a parent or adult at all times. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a free certificate of achievement, a workshop apron, and a commemorative...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Home Depot
4750 South Blvd.
, NC
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More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

In addition to pass activities, the festival will feature live music, yoga, Battle Royale SUP Sprint and two days of fireworks. 

Cost: $6 for parking, activities and food available for purchase

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 980-430-4587
Website »

More information

Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

Visit Harrisburg or two days of fun, including amusements, food, entertainment and two nights of fireworks!

Cost: Free

Where:
Harrisburg Park
191 Sims Pkwy.
Harrisburg, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

Celebrate the 4th of July at the annual fireworks show, which will occur on both July 3 and July 4.

Cost: $45+, children 3-5 receive free admission with Pre-K Pass

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Carowinds will pay tribute to military service men and women by honoring their bravery during Military Days. Active, inactive and retired service members are granted free admission to Carowinds by...

Cost: Free to military service men and women

Where:
Carowinds
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This cultural celebration will include The Spectacle of Color Parade, a street party and festive foods.

Cost: $45+, children ages 3-5 free entry with a Pre-K Pass

Where:
Carowinds Paladium
14523 Carowinds Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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