How many of you remember your first love?
Do you remember what would happen to you when you saw that person?
Perhaps your palms starting sweating (oooooh, sexy.)
Or maybe you got that icky, weird feeling in your stomach that was so strong you felt certain that you would vomit right on his shoes (again, suuuuper sexy).
Maybe your brain stopped working and you could no longer remember what you were going to say. Like when he asked if you had an extra pencil in Algebra and you just looked at him and said, “Wednesday.”
Your first love could have been a real person that you saw at school or someone on a glossy poster hanging on your wall that you “kissed” before bed each night. (Heeeey Ralph Tresvant!).
The point is, you remember your first love. You remember the feelings. You remember what happened to you physically, mentally, emotionally. Those were real feelings and you would defy ANY adult who tried to tell you that your love for that person wouldn’t last FOREVA! You would go to the ends of the EARTH for that love. You sobbed tears of misery & sadness when your mother wouldn’t let you stay on the phone all night (something about your grades slipping or whatever). Couldn’t she understand? You were in LOVE!
Now, think about how you feel now when you hear teenagers say they are in love. Uh-oh, did you just roll your eyes? Yep, I think that was an eye-roll.
I get it. You think they’re too young, right? You think they have NO idea what they’re talking about. You assure them that they will be “in love” a million times so this “little crush” is nothing.
Now. Once again, REMEMBER how YOU felt about YOUR first love? Uh. Huh. Sure, you’re grown and mature now so you know the difference. But just like those feelings seemed real to you then, the same is true for the teen in your life now. And now more than ever, they need you to stop judging and just listen to them.
We live in a time where “hooking up” is popular, and there aren’t a lot of healthy examples of love. Thus, it is imperative to have an open dialogue with teens about what love is. And what it is not. For example, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Teenagers are a retailers dream as they spend their dollars on the adorable red and pink tokens of love. Trust me, as a high school administrator, I saw my fair share of balloons, stuffed animals, heart-shaped cakes, cupcakes, singing cupid-grams, newspaper ad dedications, song dedications…and that all usually happened before lunch!
My students’ emotions were real. Their angst and anxiety were real. And the only way to keep from losing my own mind was to see them for who they are (adolescents), remember who I was (an adolescent before), and educate them about the differences between healthy love and unhealthy love.
This week (February 8-12) is Respect Week created by the loveisrespect National Youth Advisory Board as a special way for young people to raise awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (Teen DV Month) in February. This year, their theme for Teen DV Month is “Setting Boundaries,” and you can get more information on setting healthy boundaries from their website loveisrespect.org
Why is this important? Because with or without our support, the girls and young women in our lives are going to fall in love. The girl or young woman in your life is going to date. She is going to have crushes. She is going to want to kiss. She is going to want to buy gifts. She is going to want to receive gifts. She is going to want to be in a romantic relationship.
As the adult who loves her, there are a few questions we must ask ourselves in order to make this inescapable, unavoidable, terrifying fact bearable. For you and most importantly, for her.
Question 1. Do you support her dating?
Question 2. Do you encourage her to date?
Question 3: Do you tell her “You don’t know what love is, you’re just a little girl” as she is pouring out her heart to you with a simple smile when the person’s name is mentioned?
Question 4: Do you recognize the pouring out from her heart by the simple smile?
Question 5: Do you tell her that love is a precious, beautiful thing and wipe her tears when her heart has been broken?
Question 6: Do you tell her she is enough?
Question 7: Do you tell her that love does not try to make her change?
Question 8: Do you tell her love does not embarrass her or spread rumors about her?
Question 9: Do you tell her love does not criticize her for having standards?
Question 10: Do you tell her love does not ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do?
Question 11: Do you tell her that love is not abuse?
I know that the idea of your daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, goddaughter, or mentee being in an unhealthy relationship brings tears to your eyes. It certainly does for me. I also know that you would do everything and anything in your power to keep her from having this painful experience. And even though we can’t shield them from everything, we can make sure we educate them and ourselves, on the fundamentals of healthy relationships. We must also be open and accessible to talk to them instead of assuming they already know what’s healthy and what’s harmful.
Tell the special girl(s) in your life that she is marvelous and that any partner that tries to tell her otherwise is not “the one” for her. Inspire her to believe one simple truth: As she is, she is enough. Walk with her to empower her to walk away from someone or something makes her feel less than amazing. Instead of judging and criticizing the “realness” of her love, just LOVE the fact that she wants to be loved. She DESERVES to be loved. So LOVE her.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment below or send me an email. Love is…