So glad that you’ve popped in to our virtual living room today! I’ve got something fun to share with you.
Last week I came upon a blog post that I thought was extraordinarily insightful and thought provoking. Its author is Shanterra McBride. I’ve known this woman for over two decades. She’s a great thinker and writer but most importantly, she is a builder and encourager of people. Especially young people. She loves them and has cared for them as a school administrator for much of her career.
Which is why her thoughts on the phenomenon of blossoming love in the heart of a young person is especially interesting, particularly this post-Valentine’s Day week.
So, read and enjoy . . . and let it inform the way you relate to the young women in your life.
Bless you today!
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How many of you remember your first love?
Do you remember what would happen to you when you saw that person?
Perhaps your palms started 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 class and you just looked at him and said, “Wednesday.”
Your first love could have been an actual person you saw at school or someone on a glossy poster hanging on your wall who 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 millennial teens say they are in love. Uh-oh, did you just roll your eyes? Yep, I think that was an eye-roll.
I get it. 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 young person in your life now. And now more than ever, they need us 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, the hallmark day of love just passed: Valentine’s Day. Gen Zers, retailer’s favorite customers, spent their hard-earned allowance on adorable red and pink tokens of love, proving their commitment to their one true 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.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The National Youth Advisory Board of the loveisrespect organization raises awareness on this issue because one in three teens will experience abuse in some form in a dating relationship.
Why is this important to know? 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 you must ask yourself in order to make this inescapable, unavoidable, terrifying fact bearable – for you and, most importantly, for her:
- Do you support her dating?
- Do you encourage her to date?
- 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?
- Do you recognize the pouring out from her heart by the simple smile?
- Do you tell her that love is a precious, beautiful thing and wipe her tears when her heart has been broken?
- Do you tell her she is enough?
- Do you tell her love does not tell her to change?
- Do you tell her love does not embarrass her or spread rumors about her?
- Do you tell her love does not criticize her for having standards?
- Do you tell her love does not ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do?
- Do you tell her that love is not abuse?
I know 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.
Teen dating violence should not be a rite of passage. But it will continue to happen if we avoid the signs and avoid the conversation.
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 that 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 hope we will continue the conversation. Feel free to comment below or send me an email (shanterra@marvelousuniversity.
Love is . . .