She loves me. She loves me not.

love-cookies-largeRomantic relationships begin to play a central role in the tween years and the formation of romantic relationships (including crushes) is an important developmental task of adolescence.

Be an eParent®! Tweens use text messaging, Snapchat, Instagram and other social connection apps to build romantic relationships. Establish good habits early. Kids need guidelines and rules about what is a good amount of time to spend engaged in social media. Strengthen your relationship with your tween by checking in with them on social media and finding time to talk with your tween about interesting things you see on his or her social media feeds.

Adolescents by nature are very self-conscious. Because of this hypersensitivity and self-focus, they can get embarrassed and even humiliated when crushes do not work out. Adolescent relationships generally last a few weeks or months, making it unlikely for the relationships to have the depth and complexity that characterize long-term committed relationships. However, romantic relationships are still central in adolescents’ lives. Research tells us that these relationships are a major topic of conversation among adolescents and that they are a common cause of strong positive and strong negative emotions – more “emotionally charged” than friendships, relationships with parents, or school. The rollercoaster ride of these short-lived romantic relationships provides an opportunity to help guide tweens’ online social experiences. Model healthy relationship skills like empathy and perspective taking (understanding people’s feelings and how others may view situations differently than we do). Conversation skills learned offline will show up online. Remind tweens of the visibility and permanence of the Internet. Talk to them about the “performance” aspect of social media, which can explain why people often appear happier on Facebook than they really are.

You may want to check out more tips on guiding tweens and their use of social media.

To learn more contact UW-Extension Family Living Programs or like Family Living on Facebook.

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