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Let's Talk about Love

 

Love...One word for something with many degrees.

Did you know that some of the dialects of Eskimos have 40-50 words for snow?

Central Siberian Yupik has 40 such terms, while the Inuit dialect spoken in Canada’s Nunavik region has at least 53, including “matsaaruti,” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and “pukak,” for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.

Yet in the English language we have one word for love.

I don't love pizza ๐Ÿ• the same way I love my son. And I don't love my son the same way I love my spouse. 

Often times the word love is used so often that it's meaning can sometimes get lost. 

This is such an important topic to talk to young people about especially as crushes increase during puberty. 

The desire to be close to someone is essential to our livelihood and as we approach child bearing age that need evolves and romanticizes. 

Nature comes in and creates urges to be close to someone in a brand new way. 

We get butterflies when we see our crush. We spend more time tending to our appearance and experience new feelings and sensations when that person is around.  

This is infatuation or attraction. The beginnings of what could evolve into something deeper, like love. 

Where to start the conversation?

As is the case with explaining anything to a child, simplicity reigns. Be sure to use words and concrete examples they can understand and to recognize that the child’s model for love is how you treat them. 

Start with what your child knows best: 

YOU!

“Love is when you really care about someone or something so you try very hard to take care of them and keep them safe, just like how I take care of you and keep you safe.”

With little kids, it’s really helpful to try to help them experience what you’re talking about, That means linking your explanation to real, physical experiences.

Give your child a hug and ask, ‘How do you feel right now?’”  If they say they feel good or happy inside, you can tell them that those are some of the special feelings that we have when we feel loved and when we love other people.

Use pets as examples

Pets at home can also be helpful for explaining love. “When you pet or feed your cat, that’s love,” you can tell your child.

Caring for pets helps kids to understand that love can mean taking care of someone else.

Love also means setting limits. For example, we do not allow the dog to have everything he wants, such as chewing plastic, running outside or eating chocolate… because he does not understand that it can hurt him.

In this way we can show that love is also a way of protecting those who are vulnerable. 

Dispel the Myth of Fairytale Love

It is not difficult to find fairytale endings in movies. The prince ultimately saves the princess and they live happily ever after.

Stories like these can set up unrealistic expectations of what love is or should be, often disappointing us when these expectations fall short. 

Young girls are often given messages from media that they will be taken care of someday or that love is the ultimate goal in life.

Or young boys seeing grand gestures of love and believing that is how you show love. One time. 

These messages left unexamined or talked about leave young people unprepared for real love someday.

 

How to explain the difference between like and love? 

Here is an idea...Try using the metaphor of a flower:  

 

 

If you LIKE a flower you may pick it and put it in a vase. Maybe pluck the petals off and play "He loves me, he loves me not". We will enjoy it. Then likely discard it. 

When attraction turns into love it requires more care. 

When we LOVE a flower we want to keep it alive. We don't cut it and keep it in a vase.

We give it sunlight, soil, and water. We tend to its needs. 

It's only when you care for a flower over time that you get to fully experience it's beauty. The freshness, the color, the scent, the bloom. You find joy and satisfaction when a new bud appears. 

Love is a daily effort.

 

When talking with teens

If you are a parent to a blossoming teen, consider discussing these crucial aspects of relationships with your child before he or she enters into a relationship:

1. DEFINE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

Be sure to teach your teen about the foundations of a healthy relationship. Simply explain that a healthy relationship comes from respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, and support.

A relationship should consist of healthy boundaries that are established and respected by both partners equally. A good partner will accept you as you are, support your personal choices, and praise you for your achievements.

A healthy relationship also allows both partners to maintain outside interests and friendships, and does not hinder the personal freedom of either partner.

2. DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ABUSE AND ASSOCIATED WARNING SIGNS

There are many different types of abuse your teen should be aware of before entering into a relationship. These include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and digital abuse, as well as stalking.

  • Physical abuse occurs when a person uses physical force to harm another, but need not result in visible injuries to qualify. Hitting, kicking, pushing, biting, choking, and using weapons are all forms of physical abuse.
  • Emotional abuse can take the form of insults, humiliation, degradation, manipulation, and intimidation. Emotional abuse can involve forced isolation, coercion, or use of fear or guilt to control or belittle.
  • Sexual abuse involves any act that directly or indirectly impacts a person’s ability to control their own sexual activity and the conditions surrounding it. It can take many forms, including forced sexual activity, using other means of abuse to pressure one into an activity, and restricting access to condoms or birth control.
  • Digital abuse is any form of emotional abuse using technology. A person may use social media, texting, or other technological means to intimidate, manipulate, harass, or bully someone.
  • Financial abuse is a form of emotional abuse that uses money or material items as a means of power and control over another person. 
  • Stalking is persistent harassment, monitoring, following, or watching of another person. These behaviors can be difficult for teens to recognize as abuse, as they may sometimes see it as flattering or believe the other person is engaging in such behaviors only out of love.

If you’re feeling unsure about how to teach your teen to distinguish between a healthy and unhealthy relationship, or if you would like additional resources on the warning signs of relationship abuse or promoting positive relationships, consider visiting loveisrespect.org and watch these relationship videos that I produced on YouTube

Loveisrespect is a nonprofit organization that works to educate young people about healthy relationships and create a culture free of abuse. Its website offers a wealth of information for teens and parents and provides 24/7 support via phone, text, or chat.

3. EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LUST, INFATUATION, AND LOVE

Distinguishing between infatuation and love can be difficult for many adults; imagine how complicated it can be for a teenager who is experiencing many new feelings for the first time. Take a moment to explain to your teen that attraction and desire are physiological responses that can occur separately from emotions.

Make sure he or she understands that infatuation is not the same as love. Infatuation may give us butterflies, goose bumps, and that “can’t eat, can’t sleep” type of feeling, but it isn’t the same as love. Love takes time to grow, whereas infatuation may happen almost instantly.

4. TALK REALISTICALLY ABOUT SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS

While it may be tempting to skip this conversation, it’s in everyone’s best interests to talk to your teen about sex. Ask yourself whether you want your teen to hear this information from you or someone else. We offer great on-demand E-courses and live programs to help.

Talk about the difference between long-term committed relationships and casual ones, like hook-ups.

Be sure to get your teen’s point of view and let your teen hear all sides from you. Discuss the pros and cons of sex honestly. Talk about your values, tricky situations, and responsibilities associated with being close to someone in this way. 

5. SET EXPECTATIONS AND BOUNDARIES

It is important to set expectations and boundaries you have now regarding your teen dating rather than defining them through confrontation later. Let your teen know any rules you may have, such as curfews, restrictions on who or how they date, who will pay for dates, and any other stipulations you might have. 

6. OFFER YOUR SUPPORT

Be sure to let your teen know you support him or her in the dating process. Tell your teen you can drop off or pick up him or her, lend a supportive ear when necessary, or help acquire birth control if that fits with your parenting and personal philosophies. However you intend to support your teen, make sure he or she knows that you are available.

7. USE GENDER-INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE THAT REMAINS NEUTRAL TO SEXUAL ORIENTATION

When you open the discussion with your teen about relationships and sexuality, consider using gender-inclusive language that remains neutral to sexual orientation. For example, you might say something like, “Are you interested in dating anyone?” rather than automatically assuming your teen has a preference for the opposite sex by using boyfriend or girlfriend. Deliver this language with genuine openness and love.

By opening up the possibility of being attracted to both genders right away, you will not only make it easier for your teen to be open with you about his or her sexual orientation, but you’ll likely make your teen feel more comfortable with his or her identity, regardless of who your teen chooses to date.

8. BE RESPECTFUL

Most importantly, be respectful when talking to your teen about dating and relationships.

If you communicate with your teen in a gentle, non-obtrusive manner that respects his or her individuality, opinions, and beliefs, then your teen will be much more likely to do the same for you.

This helps to create a healthy and open line of communication between you and your child and ultimately could improve your teen’s self-esteem

9. KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR OUTSIDE HELP

There is help available if you’re struggling to talk to your teen about dating and sexuality. Teaching your kids what it means to be in a healthy relationship is simply too important of a message to leave to chance and may even save his or her life someday.

 

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