How to deal with a G-B
In the last article I talked about taking preventative measures to ensure that when your child is older, he or she will not be caught in a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. However, if your child is already a teenager or those methods did not work, and you are now facing this dilemma, there is still hope of rectifying it.
Most parents react with extremity upon discovering that their daughter is in a girlfriend-boyfriend situation: they lock her in her room and forbid her to see the boy again. What would be the reaction from the girl when she is faced with this? She would rebel. That is, she would do the opposite of what the parents say and, in extreme cases, run away from home. If this is not how parents want it to end, they must tread lightly. Do everything with a light touch because teenagers respond better to it. At any signs of heavy handedness, teenagers rebel!
The first step in any bridge-building is to talk. Calmly talk to your daughter to understand why she is having a boyfriend.
What led to this?
There are many reasons why girls seek out boys. The first culprit that parents point the accusing finger at; is the girl's raging hormones. This may be true in some girls but not all. There are girls who have raging hormones but who can control themselves, and then there are girls who do not have raging hormones but who still pursue the opposite sex.
Therefore, what are some other possible reasons for the girl's behavior?
Peer pressure is one. When all her friends and school mates have boyfriends, she feels compelled to follow suit. If she does not have a boyfriend of her own then she feels left out because she cannot fit in with their after school activities and cannot join in their conversations. What makes it worse is that everyone will see her as a "geek".
Another reason is if she is undertaking a popularity contest. She competes with other girls in attaining as many boyfriends as she can to see who will be the popularity queen. These contests also occur because it is seen that only popular girls have boyfriends.
Boredom often drives a girl into the arms of a boy. She sees her life as monotonous and so searches for thrill and excitement with the boy.
Or perhaps her self-esteem is low, so she depends on him to make her feel desirable and wanted.
Yet another reason is that she needs to be loved. She seeks her parents love but cannot access it; therefore, she seeks it elsewhere. Similar to this is if she is seeking her parents' attention. She defies them in seeking a boyfriend so that she can have their attention. Any attention to her is better than no attention. The difference between the need for love and the need for attention is that the former does it passively. If she cannot get it from her parents then she goes elsewhere, whereas the latter demands it from her parents.
There could be other reasons or the reasons could be a combination of the above. However, whatever the reason or reasons may be, parents need to identify and understand it. This is easier than it sounds as parents have a tendency of triggering their daughters to clam up.
How to approach them
When parents talk, care needs to be taken so as not to become accusative ("You did this to...") and judgmental ("You are so..."), otherwise it will end up like a police interrogation ("Why did you...?"). This only adds to their daughter's defiance. Also, to keep her self-esteem intact, avoid using "should", "don't" and all other negative words.
Talking effectively also means to know when to listen. This includes not only hearing but understanding. To understand what has been said, parents need to clarify it ("Do you mean...?"), acknowledge it ("You feel... because...") and empathize with it ("You sound really..."). When the teenager feels that her parents understand her, she will be encouraged to confide in them and explain why she does things and how she feels about it. And as I said earlier, by understanding, parents will get the full picture and will then know which appropriate action to take. Also, if parents want to be listened to by their children, they need to model good listening skills. Children tend to do as parents do rather than as parents say. So now is always a good time to start practicing these skills.
Looking closer at the above reasons, parents will see that the underlying factor is that the girl feels insecure about herself. Her self-esteem is low and so she relies on the boy to make her feel good about herself. The root of falling into the trap of peer-pressures, popularity contests, the need to be wanted and loved, and to have attention, is insecurity. If this is the case then give her the love and attention that she needs. Show and tell her that you love her despite her "bad" behaviors, and yet you will not tolerate them. Teach her how to feel good about herself and her religion. Build her self-esteem by acknowledging her good behaviors and achievements or her attempts to achieve (and not focusing on failures). Assign her challenging tasks and stimulating activities. This also applies to the bored daughter. Take her to teenage Islamic gatherings and camps. Encourage her to make new Muslim friends. As to the one with raging hormones who cannot control herself, ask her if she would like to marry (but do not force it upon her).
Certainly, remind her that it is the girlfriend-boyfriend relationship that cannot be approved and teach her (again) about Islam's position with regards to this. Lastly, provide Muslim role models for her. Stories about those women who guard their chastity and piety are rewarded for doing so. Maryam, mother of Prophet Eesa (a.s), is one great example.
Don't forget about the boys
Having taken care of the daughter, I will now focus attention on the son. It is ironical that parents react as if there is a death in the family when their daughter engages in a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. But when it is the son who is in a similar or worst position, the same parents are complaisant. Feel that the boy needs to have experience and enjoy himself first before he can settle down and marry. It is as if the daughter alone carries the honor of the family.
Honor needs to be distributed evenly among the family if it is to be kept intact. This means the father, mother, son and daughter must each guard their own honor. If the father or mother loses his or her honor then they are providing the role model for their children. And if the son loses his honor and goes unpunished then the daughter will see this as a hypocritical act and consequently rebels. For any mediating action to work on the daughter, parents must be consistent on their son as well. Look to the reasons why girls pursue boys then parents will see that those are the same ones that propel boys into the arms of girls.