The first step

During puberty, teenagers can learn a great deal from their peers about dealing with challenges in their day-to-day lives
Nicki Varkevisser, flickr.com, CC BY 2.0
Nicki Varkevisser, flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

It can be very difficult for teenagers to approach someone they find attractive and would like to get to know better. Peers can provide useful advice, as a discussion in a class on “Life Skills and Meeting Life’s Challenges” demonstrates.

“When a guy asks me out on a first date, he needs to come up with something creative! That’s how to impress me,” says 15-year-old Emma.* What she doesn’t want is clear: He shouldn’t suggest something ordinary. She doesn’t want to hear the same old lines, she doesn’t want to go to the movies, and she definitely doesn’t want to be asked out for a drink!

“So what is he supposed to do?” asks George,* also 15. “Should he ask her if she wants to go with him to feed the ducks?”

The whole class bursts out laughing. “Absolutely! I’d say yes immediately,” replies Emma enthusiastically. Others agree. They wouldn’t turn him down, if only because it shows that the boy has some imagination.

We start discussing the advantages that this sort of date – going to feed the ducks – might have. The students immediately point out that you wouldn’t have to be fixated exclusively on the other person, because you could focus some of your attention on the ducks. You’d be sitting side by side rather than facing each other. That would relieve some of the pressure and nervousness that usually accompany a first date. But you could still talk, which is difficult at the movies.

These young people are clearly very interested in what their classmates have to say, and they find their suggestions helpful. After all, it’s a topic that is of concern to all of them. Most are just beginning to date, and they certainly don’t want to be rejected by their “crush.” It is apparent that they value the ideas and opinions of their peers.

As teachers, we also share personal experiences. I tell the class about how my first boyfriend invited me to a rehearsal of his band. The girls like that idea. One says that she’d love it if her “crush” would ask her to go to one of his soccer matches or handball tournaments. That would indicate that he wanted her to be part of his life. Everyone agrees that showing interest in the other person is the most important thing. That’s how you get to know someone, and it lets you find out more quickly whether or not you’re a good match.

We teachers point out that it’s easier to keep a conversation going if you ask open-ended questions, ones that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” And it relieves some of the pressure if you remember that when first getting to know someone, it’s about trial and error. A first date is like a game where there are no losers.

 

*Name changed

Eveline von Arx, an expert in the field of education, has spent many years counseling adolescents.