What to Do If Your Teen Gets Obsessed with the Opposite Sex
Adolescence is that awkward time when children seem to suddenly switch from playing with toys to writing names of their crush with hearts in their notebook. It’s a difficult adjustment both for parents and for their teens, but it’s natural and an important part of their development. However, sometimes a tween or teen can get a little carried away to the point that they seem almost obsessed with the opposite sex. As one parent lamented, “while other teens seems to have multiple interests in sports, arts, or other activities, my daughter only seems to care about boys!”
If your tween or teen seems a bit “boy-crazy” or “girl-crazy,” don’t panic. Today’s blog offers some reasons for this behavior and the best ways for parents to handle it.
Reasons for Crush Craziness
There are a variety of reasons why some teens become a bit obsessed with the opposite sex:
- Hormones. Every teen’s body is going through many physical changes in a short amount of time, and the surge of hormones can affect each person differently.
- Lack of Attention. Your teen may have a strong need for attention, and a romantic relationship may look like a great way to satisfy that need.
- Low Self–Worth. Teens who don’t feel very good about themselves may depend on attention from others to make themselves feel better. Attracting attention from the opposite sex may reaffirm to them that they are worthy of attention or that they are good enough.
- Peer Pressure. If your teen notices that their friends are talking about the opposite sex all of the time or that all the “popular” kids are dating, they might assume that they will improve their social status if they focus on getting a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Messages from the Media. Sadly, the American media portrays that sex and romance bring happiness. Your teen may be swayed by movies, social media, or magazines that seem to say you’re accepted, happy, successful, or beautiful if you can attract sexual attention.
How to Help
If your tween’s or teen’s interest in romantic relationships seems to be crossing the line, here are some ideas for actions you can take to help them keep their interest in the opposite sex at a healthy level.
Positive Adult Role Models. Make sure that your tween or teen is getting plenty of positive attention. Every teen needs to have a quality relationship with an adult role model, preferably their parent. If you have a daughter, her father should take her on a weekly date – just the two of them – to help your daughter get the attention she seeks. Her father can role model what she should expect from a future boyfriend, pulling out her chair for her, opening the door for her, and showing a lot of interest in her life and activities. If her father is not in her life, encourage a trusted uncle, grandfather, or family friend to offer her that attention. If you have a son, his mother should make sure to spend quality time with him, perhaps attending a sporting event together or some other activity that interests him. When spending time with a teen, make sure that the communication is two-way, not a lecture. Teens shut down when the communication is one-sided.
Establish Healthy Boundaries. It is absolutely essential that you set limits and discuss your expectations about dating. Teens who are a bit too interested in romantic relationships are much more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as chatting online with strangers or agreeing to sexual requests from peers. Appropriate boundaries to set for your tween or teen are:
- Establish an age you will allow your teen to go on a one-on-one date. Before that age, encourage them to go on group outings.
- Do not allow your teen to spend time with someone of the opposite sex unsupervised (and no parties where adults will not be present).
- Do not allow your teen complete privacy (such as shutting a bedroom door) when a peer of romantic interest visits your home.
- Do not allow your teen to date someone more than 2 years older or 2 years younger than they are.
- Always know where your teen is going and who they are with at all times.
- Teach appropriate and respectful manners for treating a date.
Help your teen discover their talents and passions. Teens who become obsessed with their latest crush are at risk of either forgetting about their other interests or not exploring new activities. Teens should be exposed to a wide variety of experiences (educational opportunities, volunteer work, part-time employment, sports, clubs, artistic endeavors, etc.) so that they can unearth their talents, passions, and interests that might define their future. Encourage your teen to focus on a wide variety of activities so that they can develop independence separate from the latest crush.
Focus on building good character. Many teens can make some poor choices when trying to impress a crush. Make sure you’re reminding your teen of the importance of being kind and respectful at all times – with you, their friends, and their crush. Many crush-obsessed teens will ditch their friends at the first opportunity to spend time with their latest love interest. Remind your teen that crushes come and go, but good friends can be a wonderful support throughout life. Sometimes teens will attract negative attention just to get noticed by their crush, such as calling their crush late at night or posting inappropriate things on social media. Discuss the consequences of attracting negative attention. And above all, always help your teen feel good about, and be true to, who they are as a person.
Limit and discuss media. Make sure that you monitor the media that your teen is consuming. Teens are very susceptible to the messages that media promotes. Don’t let your teen watch adult shows and movies that glamorize sex or read magazines that emphasize the importance of attracting the opposite sex or having a certain body type. But even limiting some of your teen’s media will not completely eliminate the message that your teen must be in a relationship or be attractive to be happy. Make sure you openly discuss the messages and purposes behind media, as well as your vision for what brings true happiness.
Avoid embarrassing your teen. It is normal for tweens and teens to develop an interest in romantic relationships. It’s important that you do not tease your teen, nor imply their emotions are bad or shameful. You should also not share their confidences with others. Treat your teen’s feelings with respect. If you embarrass your teen about their romantic feelings, they will pursue this new interest in secret. Teasing can make them feel insecure about their feelings, but more than that, it can make them less likely to talk to you when they need you.
Remember this will pass. Adolescence is a never-ending season of trying on new identities, roles, and ideas. More often than not, a crush-obsessed teens is simply testing the waters to see how romantic relationships look and feel. Don’t panic or overreact. Just keep talking about what healthy relationships look and feel like. If you stay calm, the season is likely to pass on quicker. However, if your teen seems to be making more and more bad choices and the obsession sticks around for a long time, please consider seeking professional counseling to help your teen find a healthy balance and make healthy choices for their future.