Remember the age that you noticed someone else in a special way? Remember their smile, laugh, and general being that stirred feelings in you that made you long to become their friend, maybe even more than friends? Who taught you the art of how to romance them and how to woo them? Who taught you the words to say, the looks to give, and how to communicate your interest and, in a way, not to come off too obsessive or creepy?
For many teens, I imagine such romantic skills were acquired by the fictional books that were read, movies & TV watched, and of course, advice from friends. With this current generation, I would add the Tiktok videos and viral videos of prom-posals and such. However, is this enough to truly learn how to navigate these special relationships?
Growing up, I remember wanting to ask a girl to a dance and later a different girl to be my girlfriend. I remember stumbling through my words in the “proposal” and enacting the worst and most embarrassing ideas to show her that I “liked” her. Some things would land her affection but most didn’t. This has made for great stories to tell my kids but honestly shot down my confidence for a long time. The worst of it is, I didn’t believe I could bring my questions, feelings, and ideas to any adult without the conversation turning into an interrogation, a talk on sex, or opening the door to be teased. So I stumbled through it on my own made a lot of mistakes, but luckily, I figured it out by my mid-twenties just in time. I’m not saying struggling through failure can’t be a great teacher, but maybe I would have better understood what I was feeling and better guidance in showing my affection if someone I trusted gave me advice.
For us adults who are parents, youth leaders, and youth pastors, we must ask ourselves, have we created an environment for students to feel comfortable to ask questions in the area of romance? To tell someone we care for another person is very intimate and requires a lot of trust. When we receive this information, it should be handled with the utmost delicacy, and we must guide them in wisdom. Students need and want to know how to navigate these attractions, but they must be coached.
If you choose to create an environment for such questions, may I offer you some advice? First, as James 1 has stated, “be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Remember, they are young and still trying to figure out their emotions and ideas. They will tell you things that may make you cringe. However, if you criticize or speak too quickly, you may cause them to shut down. Second, allow them to be the creator of their ideas in showing their special someone affection, declarations of interest, or love. Offer suggestions and insight in understanding the mind of a woman or man or even offer a romantic ideas that has worked for you. Finally, to have any credibility, you must be seen as romantic to the special person in your life, showing your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend love through words, attitude, and deeds.
Creating an environment for teens to discuss love and romance issues will allow you to celebrate the good and set you up to be a safety net if a bid for romance fails. Remember, discipleship is not only teaching them in the ways of loving and following Jesus; it also disciples them in loving their neighbor. In this case, a teen’s “special” neighbor.
Joseph Valenzuela is the Associate Pastor at New Life Scottsdale in Scottsdale, AZ