By Kristine Brown, Crosswalk.com
Our world is filled with implied messages about romance, and what today’s culture tells us it should be.
All we need is a quick scan of this week’s TV show lineup or Netflix popular series to discover how the world views romantic relationships. Shows like “Married at First Sight,” “The Bachelor,” and “The Bachelorette” gain more and more popularity. But in addition to these shows which appeal to an older audience, children and teens have Hollywood’s attention also.
Even a short commercial for “The Fosters,” “Switched at Birth,” or “Pretty Little Liars” can spark tough questions from our kids about romance.
Add that to the vast amount of romantic relationships they see on social media, and it’s no wonder our children feel confusion when figuring out this whole romance thing.
So whatever we allow our kids to watch, and whenever we decide to allow social media, we want to have open communication with them. When they ask about romance, we need to be ready.
Here are 4 lies the world tells our kids about romance. Being aware of these misconceptions will help us and our kids understand its true meaning and purpose.
1. Romance Is More Exciting with Relationship Drama
Most parents of middle schoolers know the battle of explaining relationship drama to a preteen. Drama pops into our young teens’ lives in a variety of ways, and it’s our job to help them understand it.
We also face the challenge of keeping our kids away from too much drama without isolating them from friends and peers.
Arguing and fighting based on emotions like jealousy and envy are romanticized in today’s media. Our kids get the perceived notion that they not only need a boyfriend or girlfriend, but that the relationship will be more exciting if we live by our feelings.
The world tells them the lie that romance should evoke extreme emotions.
Although romance and love are not the same thing, they are closely tied. Romance is a feeling of anticipation associated with giving or receiving love. Romance can be a good thing, as long as it is kept to its rightful definition.
1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is not jealous…” (NLT) True love should not encourage us to instigate a fight for the sole reason of making up again. Hollywood would have us believe that’s the case. But instead, we can look to Paul’s gentle description of love in his letter to the church at Corinth to explain romance to our kids. Love should be “patient and kind”--not only after an argument, but always.
2. Romance Means You Should Be the Center of Someone’s Life
Young girls today are inundated with princess-themed movies, clothing, and toys. We want to instill in them the ideal that a good wife is worth “far more than rubies.” (Proverbs 3:15) We want to ensure they do not allow someone to treat them as any less in their future romantic relationships.
But are we accidentally setting their expectations too high? Will their pursuit of the perfect mate cause distress when these expectations aren’t met?
Our girls and boys do deserve the best treatment, and we are right to teach them this. However, we need to use caution with our words. A balanced approach to romantic relationships is best. That balance includes putting God first, always.
In verse 5, Paul shares, “...it (love) does not demand its own way.” Our me tendencies can threaten to topple romantic relationships off balance. Hope for a long and prosperous marriage begins with both people agreeing to keep God at the center. All love pours out from Him.
We can teach this by demonstrating it in our own homes and families.
When we show our children through our actions and words the importance of loving God first and our spouses second, they will grow up with a healthy view of romance. Yes, we want our daughters to be treated like queens.
So let’s teach our kids the difference between treating someone like a queen and putting them on a pedestal.
3. The Purpose of Romance Is Intimacy
It’s every parent’s struggle - how to keep open communication with our kids about sex. Sure, it’s easy to teach the abstinence message when they’re too young to care about it. But as they approach an age where they are instantly surrounded by the opposing viewpoint, it’s not so easy anymore.
The world would have us believe the goal of romance is a physically intimate relationship. The next generation is getting bombarded with this lie. They hear that if they want someone to go out with them, they need to do something romantic.
Want to take things to the next level? More romance. And on and on until both parties end up in an intimate relationship before they’re ready.
Paul offers a better purpose in 1 Corinthians 13:7. “Love...endures through every circumstance.” Rather than teaching that romance leads to intimacy, let’s instill in our kids the value of long-lasting love. When romance is offered consistently from dating to engagement, then into marriage, it can strengthen the bonds of a relationship.
Romance through life’s difficulties shows the depth of our love for each other at times when we need it most.
4. Romance Must Include Grand Gestures for All to See
If I asked you right now to recall the best proposal you’d ever seen or heard about, you might answer something like this: a couple’s kiss on the big screen at a major league baseball game, a performer “popping the question” on stage, or even a sign being dragged across the sky by a plane.
We’ve all seen them either on the news or in our social media feeds, but will these grand gestures give our kids an unrealistic view of romance?
I remember years ago at my own bridal shower being asked that question so many young ladies hear. “How did he propose?” As I sat staring at the onlookers anticipating my ultra-romantic story of our engagement, I froze. I had been overwhelmed with happiness when my fiancé proposed during a quiet evening at home - just the two of us.
But now, I felt as though our romantic story was lackluster. I knew my friends expected more.
Of course, that was before social media was even a thing. Today’s girls and boys alike have the added stress of trying to outdo one another. On top of that, romance isn’t just for marriage proposals anymore. There are prom-posals that take romantic gestures to a whole new level.
“Love is not...boastful.” (1 Cor. 13:4) There are times when posting happenings with boyfriends or girlfriends can be fun. But when it causes comparison, jealousy, or envy to surface, it’s time to help our kids maintain the right perspective.
Whether grand or simple, the motivation behind the romantic gesture is what counts. Romance doesn’t always have to include grand gestures for all to see.
The truth is, we can turn off the TV to keep our kids from getting wrong ideas about romance, but we won’t always be able to protect them from views we may not agree with. Thankfully, God is with us and able to give us wisdom to help our kids develop a healthy outlook regarding romance and relationships.
Romance is a good thing. It can help lead to love, mutual appreciation, and life-long commitment. Let’s guide our children in God’s truth about romance.
When they hear the world’s lies about it--and they will--we will be armed and ready to help them sort through the confusion and find peace and confidence instead.
Discover more parenting resources from Kristine Brown, including information about her new devotional for teen girls, Over It. Trading Comparison for the True Me. You’ll find weekly encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website, kristinebrown.net, where she offers downloadable resources in her Life Enrichment Library.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema