Love In A Big World: Summer love

June 23rd, 2017

Let’s face it…learning about life doesn’t stop just because school is out. Summer is a great teacher. There is extra time for reading, outdoors, play, travel…and romance. There I said it. I know we parents and educators don’t often like to venture into this territory because it’s messy. But as CASEL points out, part of social & emotional learning is social awareness and relationship management. Disney makes billions by capitalizing on the romantic tendencies of young girls. Isn’t it time that we speak up and provide a realistic yet optimistic alternative to the fairytale script?

I was eighteen when I got married, so I skipped the regular social development that the college years provide. I learned these lessons post-divorce. Believe me, this is the stuff I wish someone had told me when I was younger. And, even though, I’m writing this for us adults to share with our kids, these are probably some good reminders for all of us, especially those of us who are single.

Human beings are created for relationship, all types of relationships. Regardless of the dynamics, one of the most important things we can learn is how to be respectful and kind. Respect is valuing yourself and others; kindness is treating others the way you want to be treated. Being mindful about choosing to be respectful and kind, even when others are not, can help us navigate even the stickiest of situations with people. “A gentle answer turns away wrath”.

Regularly practicing the basics of respect and kindness lays the groundwork for meaningful friendship. When I was a kid, my mama told me, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” I was so puzzled by that statement. It took me years to understand how to be a safe place for others to share their hearts. It starts with spending time together, having fun and sharing conversation.

I also must be present with a listening ear, offering no judgment yet giving advice when invited. I am honored when one of my friends feels safe enough to shed tears with me or to ask me to pray with them about a particular struggle. And I need to be vulnerable with my needs as well. My job is to be a fellow sojourner, not a superhero. I believe strongly that friendship is the foundation for any lasting romantic relationship. That’s why I encourage all three of my kids not to get wrapped up with boyfriends or girlfriends but to focus on friendship!

Love develops over time. One of the best and safest ways to get to know someone is in the context of community, not social media or dating apps. Let’s spend time together with a group of family and friends.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relationships, but it’s a good place to start talking with our kids no matter how old they are. Be ready…where the conversation goes may surprise you.

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