ALMOST all of us have experienced love and “romantic” relationship during adolescence. It is part of growing up and experiencing life, but romance and courtship aside, teenage love is not as simple and innocent as many people believe.

Teens have expressed their difficulties in making tough decisions in relationships; whether to follow social norms or to stick to their personal beliefs.

Sometimes young people are pressured into doing things that they do not want to in a relationship, and more often than not these actions have serious consequences (read teen pregnancy and emotional abuse).

Can teenagers really address these issues openly? Who do they speak to when they want to talk about love?

From left: Nadiah, Belmonte, Sabri and Harjeet at the Children 4 Change forum.

“The topic on relationship is either one you cringe or crave, but it is an important conversation,” said UNICEF Malaysia representative Wivina Belmonte at the Children 4 Change forum at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre last Sunday.

“An uncomfortable conversation is better than an unwanted pregnancy.”

About 20 teenagers were part of the open dialogue where they discussed emotional abuse, internet safety, bullying, safety in the home and environment and safe peer relationship.

Young people across the Twitterverse were also invited to join the special #RAGEchat sessions held last Friday and Sunday, organised by Childline Malaysia and monitored by R.AGE and UNICEF Malaysia, to give their thoughts on teen love. The outcome of the sessions was submitted to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and was included in the Children For Child Protection forum which happened on the same day.

A fellow BRAT, Denielle Leong (left) presenting a summary on #MYTeenLove #RAGEchat during the forum.

“You have superseded the adults in connecting via social media,” said Sime Darby Group Corporate Social Responsibility head Nadiah Hanim.

Although many parents and adults are jumping onto the social media bandwagon to keep up with the young ones, the gap between the generations is still there.

“Parents are ‘not there yet’ in having an open conversation (with their children), but we are getting there,” said Childline Malaysia chairman Sabri Rahman on parents discussing about love and teen relationships.

Sabri said that he believes more parents today are receptive towards ideas brought forward by their children.

Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development deputy secretary-general Harjeet Singh added that teenagers could be the ones initiating the “talk” and let parents share their own experience on love.

Given the time constraints faced by most parents today, Harjeet said that it is important for them to sit with their children and talk, especially during meal time.

During the #RAGEchat sessions, a few Tweeples said that stopping the young ones from starting a romantic relationship will only drive them to rebel.
Instead parents should learn to be more accommodating to teen love and yet be strict about boundaries.

Some of the participants discussing ideas and solutions to help solve issues that may arise in teen relationships.

“At the end of the day, we give you the knowledge and you make informed decisions.

“The whole idea of relationships is that it’s good to be loved and needed. The first love that needs to happen, however, is the love for yourself,” said Nadiah.

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