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Is Twilight hurting teen relationships?

Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...

Living up to Edward

Edward Cullen is tall, pale, ridiculously handsome and brimming with secrets. As if that isn't enough to make a teen girl swoon, he is charismatic, brooding, polite, charming and full of depth. The alluring bad boy has always been hard to resist, and Edward has been lumped into this category, but this character has transcended the leather jacket and motorcycle stereotype (though he does drive one mean Volvo). Absolutely devoted to Bella, the love of his eternity, Edward has become the new "perfect" guy of this generation. Teens everywhere are feeling the impact of this powerful incarnation where love and reality collide. But does the love story between Edward and Bella create unrealistic expectations for teens and their relationships?

Helping teens separate fact from fiction

Licensed psychologist Margarita Gurri says, "Developmentally, teens must decipher their desires, expectations and dreams from those around them. Their life task is to find the best and worst in each of us, and decide for themselves their own values, self view and world view. The learning pool includes family, friends, acquaintances and virtual relationships found in magazines, movies and books. How sad would be a world without hopelessly unrealistic expectations. Aim high, right?"

But how high is too high? Are we underestimating the ability of teens to separate fact from fiction and live in the real world? Gurri says, "As susceptible as teens are, most really know the difference between fantasy and reality. After all, haven't they delved deeply into the magical world of Hogwarts with Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron? Really, most of us could use a magical spell or two from time to time."

Lessons learned from Twilight

Perhaps that is one of the lessons to be learned. It doesn't hurt anyone to get carried away every now and then. Gurri says, "A book, no matter how compelling, cannot be dangerous by itself. It is our lack of concern and support for these young readers that are dangerous. For healthy teens with a good support system, the idealism of Twilight can be great. How awesome to have someone like Edward love us when we feel ugly as Bella did."

To balance out the influence of Twilight, Gurri encourages parents to read the saga themselves to really understand where their children are coming from, as well as model a realistic ideal that their teens can imitate. Be proactive about engaging your teens in discussion about what's happening in the books and listen to what they have to say in return.

Gurri points out that Edward's behavior – alternating at times between tender and obsessive – raises an interesting set of contradictions for the "ideal" love, as well as raising good questions to ponder, no matter your age. Gurri says, "What are we willing to put up with, what are our standards, our expectations? What are our limits, our deal-breakers for any relationship?"

Develop a Bond with Your Teen

Ultimately, Twilight can serve as the entertainment it was meant to be as well as a welcome learning tool. The book doesn't have to make you worry about your kids – it can actually bring you closer together. Think book clubs, movie nights and gossip sessions about the actors who portray the characters.

Getting to know the story yourself is an incredibly unique way to relate to your teen and deepen your own relationship with them through honest and open dialog… even if you're just gushing about how divine Edward is.

Speaking of Twilight and the gorgeous Robert Pattinson, check out cast photos of the Twilight stars at the MTV Video Music Awards and watch the New Moon trailer!

For more on teen relationships:

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