Three stories, totally unrelated, are weighing heavy on my mind today. They have to do with three people who are at totally different stages of life, yet, the theme is the same–heartbreak and misunderstood love.
I’m not sure I have any real answers on how these three individuals can overcome their feelings of desperation, yet I feel that we can all learn something from their situations as we parent our teens and tweens.
How can we help our kids make wise decisions about love? How can we help them see truth about another person when passion is in play?
If you think about it, our kids have grown up with Disney and Fairy Tales. We’ve indoctrinated them to believe all their dreams and magical thinking can come true.
But somewhere we need to teach them that dreams don’t always end in a happily ever after. We need to plant some seeds of reality early on so that they learn to love with the logical part of their brain rather than just the emotional part. I’m not saying that passion is not part of the love equation. After all, it is the physical attraction that spices up a future marriage. However, our kids need to know that passion and reality need to go hand-in-hand.
Several years ago I remember seeing a book called Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book of Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier. I love the title. Somehow I think we need to teach our kids that we don’t fall in love–we choose love.
As we talk to our kids about choosing love, there is a question that we need to teach our kids to ask themselves. “Is this love relationship good for me?“
I’ve been watching a few unhealthy relationships at close view lately–a woman who married because she was “in love” even though they didn’t see eye-to-eye in the dating phase of life; a young man who is in a rehab facility because his girlfriend got him hooked on drugs and rather than focusing on his recovery he can’t wait to see her again because he “loves” her; a young woman who walked into a relationship even though she was told by numerous people that the timing wasn’t right and continued to stay in the relationship too long because she was “in love”.
And they all have the same thing in common. Love trumped logic. People around them had warned them of the heartache coming, yet they chose to ignore it.
So what is some counsel we could give our kids before they start dating? How can we help them look at love differently? What are some elements that can keep them from getting too far into the “love” relationship before they are deeply wounded?
- Have a discussion with your kids early about traits for a potentially good spouse for them. In other words, help them dream with reality. This is an opportunity to talk about character qualities, faith, our kid’s strengths and what would compliment those. It also can be a heartfelt discussion about our kid’s deficiencies and what might be a “nice to have” in order to make your marriage more successful. i.e. If your kid spends all his allowance as soon as he gets it, he might need to marry someone who is more thoughtful in how they spend money. Be sure the conversation isn’t too serious and includes lots of heartfelt laughter.
- Let your kids know early that all relationships are not perfect. When you are struggling with a friend, be open about relationships being messy at times. Same is true with your marriage. Kids don’t need to know the details, but they need to see firsthand that two people can’t always agree on everything. Obviously, if they get in a relationship with someone who always agrees with them, it is a certain red flag that something is off.
- Talk about future spouses being part of the entire family. If the person doesn’t “fit in”, what does that potentially do to family relationships in the future?
- Keep the lines of communication open as your kids begin to date. Be a safe haven for them to talk about their struggles with their significant other. Offer up ways for them to respond to the other person in a healthy manner.
- Make sure you get to know the other person. Invite both of them to join you to watch a movie, have a snack, or play some games.
- As you see the “flaws” in the other person, ask permission to speak truth. Our kids need to hear about the unhealthiness in their relationships even if they choose not to listen. The earlier we can help them see reality, the less heartache if the relationship ends.
- Let your teen know they can’t “fix” the other person. Sometimes our teens “need to be needed”. Talk about how that can lead to an unhealthy relationship.
- Encourage your kids to surround themselves with community so that others can speak truth into the relationship. Having a group of friends provides a safety net when they or the other person choose to “call it quits”.
- Warn them up front that it is easier to breakup when they start seeing signs that their values don’t line up rather than stay in the relationship too long.
- Explain that physical attraction will always defy logic.
And when the inevitable heartache does come, be there to listen and help them grieve. Ask questions to help them see where the relationship started going downhill and why it was a good thing that it ended. Encourage them to let go of the relationship with respect to themselves and the other person. And know that they will need lots of hugs and encouragement along the way as they start realizing their dream was just a fantasy.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
“Let go…and Let God”,