Rochelle Hanslow | Be Your Own Reason To Smile: HOW TO EASE THE HEARTBREAKING TEEN YEARS. ☆ Rochelle Hanslow
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January 26, 2022
by Rochelle Hanslow


“Always remember, the future comes one day at a time.”

Christmas is well and truly over, we’re deep into the 119th day of January and the supermarkets and online stores are now pushing to remind us that Valentines’ Day is coming up. Thanks to my scrolling on Thortful to get my Husband our usual sarcastic and bantering ways card for the occasion, it ended up giving me random articles to look at on my phone. As I skipped passed most of them, one of them really struck a chord with me, in fact, I despaired a little more for the state of the world when I read the headline. 

Kids are now feeling the stresses and pressures of being in relationships as young as 13’.

Let that sink in for a moment. 

I remember being thirteen. I was in my first relationship when I was fourteen with a boy who was thirteen, he was moved forward a year in Primary school and we were in a lot of the same classes together in High School once it came to taking our ‘Standard Grades’ (GCSE’s for those of you outside Scotland). 

I’m currently starting work on my memoir, which is the biggest writing project I’ve tackled to date and the process of it is jogging my memory about those days. Your teen years always seem the most heart-breaking, cruel, difficult and disaster filled years of your life when you are in them and I know for many reasons my school years were really painful due to bullying and not ‘fitting in’ but I eventually found my ‘tribe’ and things got a little more bearable. Certainly, it got me through the exam years of high school. 

My first relationship truly was a ‘First love’ situation and I was lucky that not only was he my boyfriend but he was the best friend I had ever had at that time. I was way more mature than him, I had to grow up fast because of the situations I had experienced in my life and he was his parents’ ‘Miracle baby’ and the only child they had. He lived quite a sheltered and privileged life, his parents weren’t affluent but he never missed out on what he wanted. I was the opposite; my mum was a single parent raising me and my two older sisters. His parents were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met though and they accepted me and were always really welcoming. 

Was it a relationship with up’s and down’s? Of course it was, mostly because of my mental health and the fact the older we got the more obvious the difference in maturity levels became. It was a very strong, genuine and pure love I had for him and it continued long after we broke up in 2004. I always felt like I needed to protect him or save him in some sort of way. There were trials and tribulations, I was really insecure within myself and he was pretty naïve when it came to relationships, he was used to only thinking about his own needs and feelings and I remember feeling like a part of me was dying the day we ended our relationship. We both had a very dry and sarcastic humour, we made innuendo jokes etc and we talked about sex maybe once seriously but we never slept together. He wasn’t ready and I was in no hurry. I genuinely thought I was one of the lucky ones that found their soulmate first time around. I guess that’s the innocence of first loves. In the end, it wasn’t at all the case. 

We lost touch and reconnected as friends several times from 2006 to 2014. He was my best man at my wedding. Shortly after that however, he stopped communication with me. His Dad passed away in 2018 and even though we weren’t speaking, I attended his Dad’s funeral and that was the last time I ever said a word to him. 

I know that even back in 2001 the social pressures and expectations were high and I can’t even begin to fathom how kids cope with the added pressures and pathways of social media for bullying and slander that they have easy access to now. My husband grew up in The Midlands, more specifically Kidderminster and the stories he has told me about the people he went to school with actually makes me feel lucky and appreciative of the asshole level in my high school. The lack of self-respect, manners and basic common sense in these stories astounds me to this day. I’m not a prude and I’m certainly not naïve, the fact that kids in my high school were having sex as young as thirteen years old, it doesn’t then surprise me that there were girls’ in my husband’s school pregnant and giving birth while taking their GCSE exams. As a woman and now parent however, it both disgusts me and makes my heart break. The harsh truth is that so many parents don’t want to think about the extra-curricular activities their children may be getting involved with and many make assumptions that their kids know better. Even harsher, there is a good chance that your kid has thought about having sex with the person they are in a relationship with, if not already have, regardless of what age they are. With the normal teenage peer pressure culture and added social media influences it’s really such a sad time to be a teenager.

 I’m not sure everything about the modern world we live in now is so great. Some advances are wonderful, more acceptance and equality are happening even though we are still fighting that good fight, however it seems we’ve lost focus in many aspects of life. Technology is taking over at a rapid rate and soon it will render so many ‘human only’ tasks unnecessary. We are looking at an age where the wonderful minds of human beings are creating a future of laziness and stupidity. We are making everything lack-lustre and far too easy. My husband has “Google Home Hubs” and “Amazon Echo” in our home, in the time it takes for them to understand my commands sometimes, I think to myself I could’ve just switched on the light by hand and been on my way minutes ago. It frustrates me to high hell. Everything is backwards and the article that inspired me to write this post, really brought that message home.

I have such awesome memories with my high school boyfriend; hanging out almost every single Saturday and going to town to raid ‘HMV’ and a Little Independent Record store that has been around in our home town for over thirty years now called Europa. I would drag him into ‘The Works’ with me to further fuel my addiction of new stationery and on sale books. We’d go day trips to the Zoo and go to gigs together, we’d watch movies together either in my room or go to the cinema. We were in a garage band together and just enjoyed spending time together and tried to make the most of the time we had. We’d hold hands, hug, kiss and there were ‘make out’ sessions for sure but our main focus was never on sex. I missed him when he went home after spending the time together but I looked forward to seeing him again, we’d text each other at times or I’d phone his house phone (can you imagine!) and even more miraculously I still remember the phone number. We took our relationship seriously in the fact that we didn’t see other people but that’s as ‘adult’ as our relationship got. 

Teen romances and relationships shouldn’t be stressful and they shouldn’t be being as traumatic on mental health as they are now. A twelve year old child should not be in a place where they feel suicide is the only way out. Whether you are thirteen or thirty-five heartbreak will always well and truly suck, it hurts like an absolute bitch but why are we as parents and adults allowing our kids to be having adult level relationships at thirteen? Why aren’t we telling them that they have their whole lives ahead of them to have relationships and experience it all. Why aren’t we saying that they don’t need relationships at their age and why is that seen as being smothering? 

Listicle – 10 things we should be making clear to our children (especially our teens)

  1. Be your own reason to smile. You don’t need a relationship to make yourself happy. We should be promoting from an early age that you need to love yourself first and foremost. You need to be a complete person before entering a relationship.
  2. Respect on all sides. No matter your orientation if another person isn’t in a relationship or having sex they should not be ridiculed for this. If a girl is wearing a short skirt but not in a relationship or having sex for example, don’t label her a tease. 
  3. Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Your teenage years are about finding yourself and growing into the person you are becoming. It should be embraced and experienced to its utmost, it is not a time in your life where you should be carrying unnecessary stress, pressure or experiencing severe mental health issues. 
  4. Look after yourself but don’t obsess over how you look. I see so many kids on the way to or from school and they look and smell like they are going to a nightclub. School is about education and that should be so much more important than looks or popularity status. 
  5. Have goals and strive for them. There is more to life than love, relationships, the way you look, socialising and sex. These things can add to your life but they can’t make your life. Not everyone wants to be married or a parent and that’s absolutely okay. 
  6. Don’t take life so damn seriously. Let them be their age. Don’t put the pressure of a forty-year-old on the shoulders of a fifteen-year-old.
  7. Being a good person and friend matters. Kindness is the new punk rock and the world needs more people to stand up and say they care. 
  8. Respect yourself. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to set boundaries. Respect yourself first and make sure others do the same. Your feelings are valid and you are allowed to feel them. 
  9. Don’t believe everything you hear and see. People will tell lies, from their sexual experiences to things they have done. Trust your judgement and your mind, never do anything just because someone else is apparently doing it or dares you to. The likelihood of them actually doing what they say they are is slim and you should only do things in your own time, at your pace no matter what others say about it or you. 
  10. Enjoy these years. You are a teenager for only 6 short years in your life. Work hard, laugh, learn as much as you can, read books and enjoy having minimal responsibilities because life moves pretty fast when you become an adult and you’d wish you listened when ‘The oldies’ told you these were the best years of your life. 

There are so many things I keep thinking I’m failing at with my boys, I know there’s so much for them to learn from me but sometimes I forget that they are only six and four. They have so many more years to learn all the harsh truths that come from growing up. I’m happier in the person I am now at thirty-four than I’ve ever been but I’ve still got a way to go. I hated my teens and twenties when I was in them but looking back now I can see that I really had have some wonderful times back then and I wish I had savoured them more, I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry to be an adult and get my escape. As my dear friends Blink 182 say, I guess this is growing up. 

Love hard. Be fierce. Horns high. 

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