How can we help our adolescents prepare for a lasting relationship?
When they find out their child has a boyfriend or girlfriend,parents’ reactions vary widely: from total refusal to hear anything about it (and running the risk of not listening to the child) to total acceptance and even support. How should we react to our adolescent’s first love?
Ask the Lord for help
We can start by asking the Lord what He thinks. See the question from His perspective, and examine the situation in that light. Of course, the answer will not be immediate, but looking to God means asking Him: “What do you expect of us? What should we do so that Your will is fulfilled in us and in each of our children?” Asking this of the Lord will prepare us to receive His light.
We should also explain to our children that being human means that body and heart are inseparably united in us. Given that man is spirit incarnate, i.e., a soul expressed in a body and a body that is animated by an immortal spirit, he is called to love in this unified totality. Love engages the human body and the body engages spiritual love. In other words, you cannot “try on” love, you cannot play at loving someone: whether we like it or not, in a romantic relationship each person is fully implicated.
For this reason, adolescent love is not without consequences. A good dose of restraint, to the point of heroism, might be necessary, to keep from crossing the lines of chastity and respect for one another.
Help your children avoid drama
It is a good idea to also tell your adolescent that you cannot give your body without giving your heart, even though you try to protect yourself from getting hurt. We hold hands, we kiss, we sleep together “once, just to try it” … and then one day, we break up. And it is very painful, like a divorce because, married or not, adolescent or not, the body forms a bond, and that bond is now broken.
Once you give your body, you give—a little, a lot, passionately—your heart. Breaking up is painful and can leave deep scars, especially in adults, even though many people do not consider it such a big deal. How many young people begin their adult life wounded by successive breakups!
Thus, adolescent love is not trivial. It is not an obligatory and inevitable rite of initiation, although it is normal for adolescents to investigate, try out, and put to the test their power of seduction. But it is our responsibility as parents to help them stay free to truly love. In this respect, older siblings or friends can offer invaluable support.