As February 14 and Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, many teenagers find themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position.
For those in a relationship, Valentine’s Day brings up questions: What present do you get? Where do you go for dinner? Is it time for the relationship to progress physically?
Those who are not in a relationship see Valentine’s as the day where they are painfully aware they are alone with no flowers, date or sappy Instagram post in the near future.
Relationships are difficult and awkward at any age, but especially for teenagers who still haven’t figured themselves out, much less how to navigate a relationship with another searching teenager. Unfortunately, the relationships many of our teenagers are learning from on social media, TV and movies are unhealthy, abusive, manipulative and obsessive.
How can we show our teenagers what real healthy relationships look like?
In a world with competing depictions of love, we have to intentionally talk about and show teenagers what healthy, loving, realistic relationships look like. This by no means implies that you must have the perfect relationship yourself (we are shooting for realistic, remember?), but it does require some transparency.
To help our teenagers love better, there are a couple of things we can do…
1. Be willing to start conversations about relationships.
To be honest, starting relationship conversations with teenagers can be awkward. They sometimes get defensive, and you have to bring up uncomfortable topics like boundaries, sex, and breaking up.
These may seem like good reasons to avoid these conversations all together, but the exact opposite is true. Relationships are a vulnerable part of a teenager’s life, which means that they need someone to listen and give them a safe place to explore, question and make mistakes. If you don’t start conversations and let them know that you can be that safe place, they will go somewhere else like social media, movies or peers who are just as clueless as them.
Your conversation does NOT have to be perfect or smooth, but at least try! Try to talk to them about boundaries, realistic expectations, forming their identity separate from the relationship, and social media and how that can complicate things. You don’t even have to have all of the answers, but allow them to question and struggle with someone who can still point them in the right direction.
2. Intentionally place healthy relationships in the life of your teenager.
Regardless of what the relationships look like in their own homes, teenagers need additional relationships modeled for them. I use the word “intentional” for this practice because you need to be the one who places healthy, trustworthy relationships in your teenager’s life.
These relationships could be grandparents, a couple from church, some good friends, a school teacher that they connect with or anyone else you feel could be a good example for your teen. Find people in different stages of life who are willing to be transparent and honest.
By placing these relationships around your teen, you show that healthy relationships are important and attainable. No relationship is perfect, every couple is different and will make mistakes, but it is possible to have a relationship that is selfless and makes each individual better at the end of the day.
Do you know someone that this would resonate with? Take a minute to share it via email or social media. It could make a difference for someone you care about.