Making Relationships Work
She smiled at me weakly through her tears, “I believed everything he said. He sounded like such a nice person when we first met. I don’t know what I did wrong. Now I’m left with a mountain of debt and a lease I can’t pay.”
Making relationships work in the 21st century is no small feat, especially in the era of social media. Lots of young people tell me, “you have no idea, but things are different today. It is so much tougher to meet the right person and really get to know them, before they want you to move in with them. And if you don’t chances are, they’ll move to the next person.” Initially I thought this was an exaggeration but lots of people tell me the same story. Being a mom of young adults and a teen myself I feel like parents can guide their teens as they start engaging in relationships.
1. Teach them your faith
Teaching teens your faith isn’t just about going to church on Sundays. It also involves having a relationship with them. In these challenging economic times, both parents work in about 48 percent of families, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so it’s often hard for parents to interact with their teens. It’s however very important to have a loving relationship with your teen. Parents must take time out of their busy schedules to interact with their teens and show them that they are loved. Fathers especially must show their daughters how men should treat them and show their sons how to treat women well. If fathers don’t show love, how can they impart their faith, which for us Christians centers on having a loving father who truly cares for us? Whatever your faith is, I know it embodies love and we as parents can show that love to our teens. It helps to also teach them how to pray, how to live decent lives, how to expect the best of themselves and how to give of their best to others. Having faith, teaches them to have a deeper relationship with God, with you as their parents and with other people.
2. Teach them to know and love themselves
Teach your teens to be comfortable with who they are and what they stand for. They must develop principles by which they live and be willing to move on if they feel their principles are being violated in a relationship. If teens know and love who they are, they will not need a relationship to make them feel complete, then partners learn to complete each other in the relationship. Some people jump from one relationship to another because they feel empty if they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They are willing to do anything to have someone with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to abusive relationships and not expecting and receiving the best or even giving off your best with your partner. Teach them that they are complete beings. It also helps to write down what you expect in your partner. Teach them to pray that they become the person their partners are looking for. If they don’t know what they want in their partner, how will they even recognize the person when they meet him or her.
3. Finding a partner
Teens and young adults admit that it’s that much harder to meet people these days. Everyone is so busy and working long hours, hence the advent of match.com and eharmony.com and christianmingle.com. There is no shortage of dating sites these days. I personally know people who met on dating websites and got married and have a great relationship. On the flip side of that, there is no end of horror stories from people who got into relationships from some dating sites as well. As helpful as these sites are, I think meeting and dating people the good old fashioned way should not be discounted. Unfortunately, teens don’t interact with each other anymore. Sometimes in social settings they are so busy texting or putting pictures of themselves on social media that they miss out on the opportunity to meet and interact with each other. Teens must be encouraged to put down their phones sometimes and be present in the moment. Who knows what magic will happen when they actually learn to smile and meet new people, in person.
4. You Met. Now what?
Here is the real challenge. A lot of “deep relationships” are formed on the internet. They text, snapchat or post pictures on Instagram. Talk on the phone, absolutely not! After seeing pictures of someone in various poses and in every different social setting, teens and young adults feel like they know each other and they are quick to go to the next step and move in with each other. That is exactly what happened to my young friend, I spoke about earlier. Hearts are broken and relationships and sometimes even finances ruined. When communicating on social media only, everyone puts on their best behavior. Partners look great and they feel like they really know each other. Regrettably, teens sometimes miss out on learning simple social skills, like a gentle touch, what a person’s smile means. I wonder sometimes, if they even learn how to fight and make up, or how to compromise and accept another’s shortcomings? We really should encourage our young adults to take the time to know the other person and to seriously consider whether moving in is such a great idea. To me, you can get to know a person well, if you take time to be present with him and see how he or she reacts under different social settings, without necessarily moving in with them.
These are some of the conversations we should have with our teens. We must live exemplary lives for them to emulate, and encourage great relationships with God, their family members and friends. Teens should learn who they are and be comfortable and confident in themselves and know who they want to associate with and what they stand for. Then, they’ll be ready to form strong bonds and friendships with their partners and truly learn to love another person selflessly.