Use Love Island to start important conversations with your teens (Picture: Getty / Rex/ITV)
Pushed off the sofa every night at 9pm and shushed if you dare speak during a recoupling, we wouldn’t blame parents for having a bit of hatred for Love Island.
But here’s the thing: if your teenagers are watching the hit ITV2 show, dismissing it as trash or demonising it as the pinnacle of awful human behaviour is a major mistake.
Love Island is a major part of our modern culture. It can’t just be turned off and ignored.
Instead, suggests psychologist Cathy Press, you can use the show for good – by using it to have vital, if difficult, conversations with your children.
‘It’s hard to get away from the popularity of Love Island these days – the popular TV reality show has engrained itself into the public imagination, especially for our young people,’ Cathy tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Some may say our teenagers should not be watching Love Island with all of its relationship dramas and toxic relationship dynamics.
‘However, there are ways you can use Love Island to spark important conversations with your teenager about healthy relationships.’
So, how can you use Love Island as a handy tool to help your teens have healthy, positive relationships? Cathy talks us through it.
Don’t judge or criticise your teenager for watching Love Island
Your kids deserve to feel safe to explore and enjoy pop culture without feeling like they’re going to be judged for it.
Making comments like ‘not this rubbish again’ or calling people who appear on or watch Love Island stupid is a surefire way to shut down the conversation and make your teen feel like they can’t chat to you.
Your teenager is probably already watching… so now what? (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
Challenge the appropriateness of islanders’ actions
Your initial thought when it comes to Love Island might be concern of exposing your teenagers to terrible behaviour – but that’s actually a benefit.
Your children will likely, at some point, encounter terrible people who attempt to pull all sorts of manipulative, game-playing, tricks. Watching Love Island can help to get in there before this happens and outline why this behaviour is wrong.
‘Young people can have quite stereotypical views about gender roles in relationships and how people are supposed to behave, no matter what their sexuality or gender identity,’ Cathy explains. ‘This is further confused when one person in the relationship behaves coercively to control the other.
‘We need to challenge these views in our teenagers.
‘Love Island provides an opportunity to challenge these views: there are many instances of coercive and manipulative behaviours, including gaslighting, game-playing and lovebombing. These are also all things that can occur in teenager relationships, too.
‘When starting the conversation, think about the questions you can use to challenge your young person’s perception of the appropriateness of some contestants’ actions.
‘For instance: how would you feel if someone dropped you and immediately moved on to the next person? Who shows the most consistent care for the partner in their coupling? How do you think you might respond if you were being pursued by someone in a pushy, full-on way? What do you think about the huge focus on everyone’s bodies?
‘Call out these behaviours when you notice them and see if your child starts to call them out too.
‘It is important not to assume your child is noticing the same patterns of behaviour that you are- talking about the behaviours onscreen will help get the both of you on the same page.’
Keep the conversation open
Cathy advises: ‘Use it as an opportunity for discussion and to get your youngsters to share their opinions and listen to what they have to say.
‘Just be careful not to be confrontational when they share their opinions – listen more and say less, even if you are desperate to comment!’
Call out problematic behaviour as you see it happening (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
Use the ad breaks to raise things that seem problematic
Talking over the drama will likely get you some glares – but don’t just sit and watch silently as damaging stuff plays out on screen.
Try using the ad breaks or the shows after Love Island ends to open up the conversation.
‘Do open up a conversation if you are worried; let them know that you sense something is wrong with the behaviours or representation of contestants onscreen,’ Cathy says.
Use it as a jumping off point to talk about their relationships
Cathy recommends: ‘Ask about how their current partner behaves towards them and what they like or don’t like about their behaviour.
‘If they insist their partner is lovely despite unkind behaviour, say “Tell me how they are lovely?” and eventually the penny will drop.
‘Even if you have asked and they insist that everything’s fine, it will help them to know that you’ve noticed.’
Don’t just state your opinion and move on
The benefits won’t come just from you saying ‘that islander behaved terribly’ and leaving it at that.
Ask your teenager open-ended questions – what do they think of what’s just played out? How would they respond if this happened to them? Have any of their friends been through similar situations?
Don’t assume your teenager’s attitudes are just down to being a ‘typical teen’
This comes back to not being judgmental or dismissive. Keep your ears open and allow your child to express views, but take what they say seriously.
‘They may be responding to a difficult situation you don’t know about and need your support even if they aren’t making it clear,’ Cathy notes.
Use Love Island as a positive opportunity to connect with your child
‘Don’t switch off,’ Cathy adds. ‘Use every opportunity to open up discussions in a non-confrontational way.
‘Start them earlier than you think you should because young people are engaging in relationships from as early as primary school. They will know more than you think.’
Cathy Press has been working as working as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor for over 25 years, specialising in domestic and sexual violence and abuse related issues with children, young people and adults.
Her new book When Love Bites: A young person’s guide to escaping harmful, toxic and hurtful relationships is out now priced £14.99. Visit Escape The Trap for more information.
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