This V-day, Believe in Your Teens Unconditionally

affection-dad-daytime-960829Have you ever had someone believe in you more than you believed in yourself?  How did that make you feel? It probably made you feel like you could take on the world (or whatever situation you faced at the time). That is how powerful unbridled belief from others can be.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the world is ablaze with talk about romance, kind gestures, and LOVE. At LifeSmart, we believe that believing unconditionally in someone is one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate love.

Many successful people also point to their parents’ or guardian’s belief in them as the driving force behind their success. They believe that if their parents hadn’t been confident in them from the get-go, they wouldn’t be in the same place today. I am precisely one of those people, and I will be forever grateful for my parents’ unconditional love and belief in me (even if I may not have always felt deserving). It helped more times than I can count—including when I dropped a full grade point on my GPA during my first year of college versus high school. I remember how this caused me to question whether I was college material. However, I was sustained by their belief in me and turned things around the remainder of my academic career.

Teachers are also in a special position to demonstrate belief and affirmation in their students. I remember being one of the shortest boys in 8th grade, and this sometimes affected my self-confidence. I’ll never forget when my favorite teacher, Mr. Wulgeart, wrote the following in my yearbook, “Denny, there’s a saying that good things come in small packages. I think you prove that saying.” That meant the world to me.

Do your children (or other young people in your life) know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them unconditionally and believe in them unequivocally? Do they know that you see them as talented, worthy, and brimming with potential? Make certain they do rather than assume they do. It is a tremendous asset for teens to be surrounded by adults who believe in them—who can affirm their uniqueness and value. This Valentine’s Day, make sure your belief in them is an inner voice, encouraging them to dream big and persevere through life’s challenges.

Your child, mentee, or student will make his or her share of mistakes along the way (I know I sure did!).  But having the benefit of unconditional acceptance and belief from you will soften those blows and provide a safety net they can always count on.

Not so sure how to let them know you’re their biggest fan? Here are some ideas:

  • Be upfront. Whether it’s at a meal, during a tutoring session, or after a class, be willing to open up. Tell them that you believe in them (and why). Call out some of their greatest assets and character traits. Don’t just compliment them for their achievements; look for opportunities to appreciate their most admirable qualities and when they do something kind.
  • Write them an affirming letter or note. Stick a note in their lunchbox, or if you’re a teacher, consider putting a sticky note on one of their assignments. Knowing you went to the effort to do that will speak volumes to them!
  • Be generous with your time. What says, “I believe in you” more than carving out time in your busy schedule to do things they will enjoy?
  • Let them overhear a compliment you make to another.
  • Speak from experience. Share your own downfalls, mistakes, and past life experiences. A little perspective from a “pro” can boost their confidence and build trust!

We can be the cheering squad that calls out the strengths and affirms the dreams and potential of the young people in our lives. It’ll let them know that if they were a stock, you’d be a buyer! And, the best part of all? Your belief will breed their belief in themselves.

Who could benefit from your gift of affirmation and belief today? What ways do you show you care about the children, students, and mentees in your life?

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Words (Part Two)

adult-beverage-breakfast-302810Well, we hope you didn’t experience any dog bites or bee stings last week, but if you did, we trust that our latest blog on some of our favorite words helped pull you through. Recall, we’re adapting the “My Favorite Things,” song to words that have special meaning to us this time of year. Our first six favorite words were: Peace, Reflection, Family, Joy, Beauty, and Self-Care. Did you accept our challenge and make your favorite word list? We hope so.

Here are this week’s low-cal word alternatives to crisp apple strudel:

Hope: Without a doubt, one of the most powerful ingredients to a happy and fulfilling life is hope. No matter what our current circumstances, hope helps us endure and gives us a head start in tackling each new day. Simply stated, without hope, we are consumed by the present as “our normal” and struggle to cast a positive vision for our future.

Dictionary.com defines hope as, “the feeling that what is wanted can be or that events will turn out for the best.” This perfectly captures why we honor the educators and mentors who pour themselves into the lives of children at risk. How often it is that their hope comes through relationships with caring adults and/or through faith in God. So, whether you’re a parent, educator, mentor, colleague, or friend, be on the lookout for opportunities to instill hope in others. This is the season of hope, right?

Compassion: Arguably, there is no time of year when the differences between the haves and have-nots are more apparent. Gifts may be plentiful and extravagant or nonexistent. Cupboards may be full in a well-heated home or nonexistent when one lives under a bridge. Some are soaring in their careers while others struggle to find work. Some live in families that exude love and affirmation, while others experience dysfunction, abuse, or neglect. Some are so healthy they take it for granted while others are challenged with chronic illnesses or just heard bad news from the lab.

And yet, each of these is the domain of a different kind of First Responder: the Compassionate. No matter how difficult the circumstances, they are called to bless the hurting. Yet, ask anyone who is so inclined and they’ll tell you they receive more in return. Whether it’s their job, a volunteer opportunity, or simply being available, they deserve our utmost admiration. We can also be that compassionate soul, too and financially support those organizations offering comfort to the world. We’re all in this together. #beablessing

Generosity: One of history’s most beloved stories (and films) is A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is a study of contrasts, abruptly transforming from a miserly crank to a giddy, child-like philanthropist making up for lost time. Honestly, I watch the movie every year, reflecting on opportunities where I could have been more generous.

Each of us has time, talent, treasure, and relationships to offer the world. How we go about this is a function of what we have to offer, where we can offer it, and deciding to offer it. Instead of requiring a catalytic, Scrooge-like experience, let’s all commit to generosity as a way of life. The opportunities are endless.

Creativity: Unlike any other month, December offers more ways to use our creative juices and marvel at the talents of others on display. Whether it’s music, theater, decorations, or homemade gifts, we’re surrounded by human originality and performance this time of year. And, it’s truly awesome.

In a world that seems preoccupied with programs for the analytically inclined, we believe the “creatives” are undervalued and underappreciated. So, this season, and throughout the year, seek out opportunities to invest in the arts and to increase your creativity quotient. It enriches our lives and our world in immeasurable ways.

Simplify: Okay, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, right… he picks the craziest time of year to tell us to simplify when I can barely keep my tank full!” To that, we say, “Well, yeah!” My world and your world are getting more complex and distracted by the day, so this is a great reminder to push back from time to time. Our mental health and productivity are at stake if we don’t.

Here are some ways to simplify: 1) each year, check your wardrobe for items you haven’t worn in a year and donate them to the local clothing bank, 2) consciously schedule yourself downtime in your calendar, 3) reduce by half the amount of free time you spend on your technology (at a minimum, don’t check it so often!); this will free up time for family and “me time,” and 4) do a detailed “time budget” for a week to analyze how you’re spending your time; reduce/eliminate low value activities.

Cheer:  I once attended an Andy Williams Christmas show and correctly predicted his opening song: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” In it, he encourages us to be of “good cheer.” Well, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us. When we’re cheerful, we’re glad, and that’s a good thing any time of the year.

Let’s face it, we are drawn to people who are positive and cheerful rather than negative and dour. Cheerfulness rubs off on others (unless overdone to the point of being unnatural) and is key to making a good first impression, winning new friends, and influencing people. And, the more cheerful we are, the more cheerful we are. (No, that’s not a typo.)

So, there you have it… twelve of our favorite words for this holiday season and throughout the year. We hope it spurred you to consider your favorite words, and it’s a great assignment for your children and students, too.

 

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Words (Part One)…

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Happy holidays! ‘Tis the season where hustle and bustle meets merriment and jolly (and, yes, sometimes melancholy, but we won’t go there now). We are all faced with the desire to do everything and see everyone at this magical time of year, but if we’re honest, we usually look back and wish we took a little more time to just relax and enjoy the beauty and meaning of the season.

So, for the next two weeks, we’re going to slow down and simplify things. We decided to do “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but LifeSmart style, and focus on 12 impactful words that have an important meaning for each one of us during this season. Instead of worrying about the ways you can be more, do more, and buy more this holiday season, let’s all take a deep breath and reflect on the things that really matter.

Without further ado, here are a few of our favorite words:

Peace. This is a word that is we see everywhere during the holiday season, and it has become almost a cliché that we don’t even think about. What does peace really mean for you and me? “Peace on Earth” can feel downright impossible when you’re burdened by financial unknowns or difficult family members. But the truth is, true inner peace is not affected by our circumstances.

We are able to experience peace when we can persevere through circumstances we cannot change and make the most of what we can control. Simply put, there are a lot of things out of our control, and the only thing we truly can control is our attitude, behavior, contentment, and way we treat others. This year, consider saying “no” to one more holiday expectation, focusing on how you can live generously, enjoy time with others, and do the things you are most passionate about. Surround yourself with positive people and opportunities. Peace will come!

Reflection: Reflective practices make us healthier mentally, emotionally, and even physically. However, when our holiday pace is frenetic, taking time to sit and be quiet is usually the first thing to go! This season, make it a priority to truly relax and reflect. What are you grateful for and to whom? Where have you seen personal growth in your life over the last year?  What goals do you have for the upcoming year? How can you be more present in the lives of the people you love?

Studies have shown that people who sit down in the evening to reflect on their blessings and set goals for the future are more resilient, report a higher happiness quotient, and have deeper, more meaningful relationships. Could you ask for a better Christmas gift?

Family: It’s easy to fall into the trap of needing to buy the latest gadget or fashion item. Heck, we all experience it to some degree! However, it’s important to never forget how priceless the gift of family is. Even if you live far away from family or have no living family, those who aren’t related by blood can be a part of your family. These are the people who stick by your side, support you through ups and downs, make you laugh, and remind you that you’re never alone in the world.

So, next time you feel the pressure to buy, buy, buy, remember that people—not things—are what matter most. Pick up the phone and tell someone you care about them. And, seek out opportunities to be family to someone who needs it. Who could use a little more of you?.

Joy: Did you know joy and happiness are actually quite different? Happiness is circumstantial. We are happy at parties or on vacation or when our boss tells us we can leave a couple hours early. However, true joy sustains through all life situations, even when the going gets rough. Joy means choosing to look on the bright side, even when you’ve ruined the Christmas ham. Joy means generously giving to those around you, knowing that this is the true spirit of the holidays. Joy means forgiving those who have wounded you, and choosing not to complain about the ways you may feel overworked and underappreciated. (We aren’t saying to be a martyr, but to remember that inner joy is cultivated on the inside and not found in positive circumstances.) Could your life use a little more joy? Our best advice is to use your unique gifts and talents to bless people you are passionate about. Joy will come.

Beauty: This season is a feast for the senses. If we take the time to look for it, it’s everywhere. Nature contributes its blanket of snow. People adorn their homes, offices, and streets with festive trimmings. The creatives are given opportunities like no other time of year to showcase their musical, theatrical, and artistic talents. And, generous people share their inner beauty by brightening up the lives of others, instilling hope, and providing sustenance. Beauty is everywhere for us to create and enjoy. What beauty do you most appreciate this season?

Self-care: Guess what? It’s okay to say, “No.” Let’s say it again. IT’S OKAY TO SAY “NO.” It is okay to say no to more expectations, parties you simply don’t have the margin, interest, or resources to attend, or to spending time with negative or toxic people who suck the life out of you.

If you are not well-cared for, and if you let your tank run all the way to empty, you simply cannot give your best to your spouse, children, students, friends, and self. Self-care means doing whatever it takes to fill up your tank with health and balance, allowing you to savor every beautiful thing the season has to offer.

If you’d like, consider writing these six words down and meditating on them throughout the week. How can you integrate them more deeply into the fibers of your life? How can you put these words into practice? What words would you, your students, and family choose, if you had to list your favorite words?

Stay tuned for next week when we will share six more of our favorite words!

Friendsgiving and the Four Stages of Friendship

The holidays are already just around the corner (how did that happen?), and so many of us are already filling up our calendars with festive events, dinner parties, school functions, and traditional gift exchanges. It’s a season to focus on family and friends. How many of you are having a Friendsgiving celebration this year? I know that I am, so I definitely have the topic of friendship on my mind.

With so much focus on spending time with those we love, I’m reminded of what real friendship looks like. “Friend” is one of those words that has taken on a new meaning in today’s social media-inundated world. Now, the word “friend” can easily refer to a life-long confidante, or simply someone you just connected with on Facebook or started following on Instagram! BIG difference, don’t you think?

Generally speaking, healthy long-term relationships progress through four stages and—no offense to Facebook—“friend” isn’t the first stage. Ideally, each relationship stage should build on the other and at the proper pace. What advances a relationship to new stages or levels, IF it is meant to advance at all, are: mutual trust, compatibility, a shared interest in cultivating a deeper friendship, and the tests of time.

The stages go like this (imagine a pyramid, starting at the base):

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Prospect (a potential friend)
  3. Friend
  4. V.I.P. (Very Important Person)

Every person who becomes more than an acquaintance will start in the first stage.  Most stay there forever while others may progress into the next stages. Only a very few will make it to the VIP stage—and that’s the way it should be. Most of us usually have 4-5 VIPs, the crème de la crème of people in our lives.

Unfortunately, many people—particularly young people—can rush the stages, prematurely moving from one to the next in a quest for intimacy, new friends, popularity, or a full social calendar. When the stages are rushed, people exhibit behaviors in one stage that should be reserved for a deeper one. Inevitably, these relationships disintegrate due to a breakdown in trust, a loss of interest, or a pace that is uncomfortable for one or both of the parties. Note this applies to both friendships and romantic relationships.

If you want healthy, lasting relationships, don’t rush to stage four (like they do in the movies!). When you do, you risk making an emotional investment without really knowing the person—a mistake that can take a major toll when the relationship ends. It’s better to go slow through the stages and reserve the VIP level for people who really prove their friendship, commitment, and compatibility over time.  Don’t forget that good friendship and true love take time and good timing, and that’s okay.

Take some time to think about your current relationships. Can you recognize which stage each one is in? This holiday season, make a conscious effort to invest your deepest relationships and those poised to move up to the next stage. Those are the friendships that will build you up and last a lifetime!

6 Easy Ways to Show You Care

I hope this post finds you refreshed and uplifted after a Father’s Day well-spent with your family. Father’s day is such a special time to focus on the dads in our lives and show them our appreciation and love. This day always reminds me of the value of relationships—of mine with my parents and with my kids. I’m reminded of the strategic impact that fathers have in the roles of their children, even years after they’ve left the house!

As I reflect on the value of the relationships in my life, I’m reminded of our culture’s vulnerability to two conflicting priorities: relationships and things. While our society has progressed in many respects over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we’ve regressed in terms of relational health and depth. Sadly, with the distractions of technology and busyness, it seems to be getting worse.

Have you taken the time to think about what you really value in life lately? What are you communicating about your priorities to the ones you love—whether intentionally or unintentionally? You can use the following list as either a self-check or a to-do list. Either way, we hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for communicating your love to others (dads, friends, children, and beyond):

  1. Be fully in the moment. When you’re with someone, be completely engaged (not on your phone, scrolling through Instagram, playing Candy Crush, Snapchatting, etc.).
  2. In a tug of war between relationships and tasks, give the edge to relationships. Our tasks may seem urgent, but relationships should take priority. This is especially true when our children need our attention. Compromise your inconvenience for the times they need your counsel.
  3. Keep family and close friends at the top of your priority list in terms of time and energy. Don’t just give them the leftovers! They deserve your best self.
  4. Express appreciation regularly. Be grateful for the people in your life and share your feelings with them. (I doubt that my kids could have known that my all-time favorite Father’s Day gift from them would be a license plate frame with the engraved words, “Dad’s are cool!”)
  5. Praise them in front of other people. Say something nice about then when they are in earshot. You will help build their self-worth and indirectly communicate how much you value them (parents, this is a great pointer for you!).
  6. Forgive offenses quickly and (really) let them go. After all, you’d want your loved ones to do the same for you, right? On a related note, pick your battles carefully and when arguments do arise, keep your cool and be an agreeable disagreer.

 

Do the people you love know how much you care about them? What creative ideas, license plate frames or otherwise, would you be willing to share?

10 Regrets to Avoid Like the Plague!

Looking back on your life so far, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?  Bridges burned?

Although these are some of life’s most important questions, too many people wait until the end to ask them—and by then, it’s too late.  We’ll all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself these questions (and then actually do something about it!).  Today is the best time to start!

When it comes to considering our regrets, there is wisdom to be gained from senior citizens who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life.  If you ask them about their life regrets, you’ll likely hear some—or maybe even all—of the following:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks, try new things, and live my passion
  7. I wasted too much time
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life
  9. I valued things over relationships
  10. I worried too much

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that your life is balanced, you fully invest in relationships, and your priorities are right.

This discipline is a great one for all ages.  Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed midcourse corrections and “relationship repairs” along the way.

Be forewarned, though: it’s not easy, and it takes a strong dose of courage, humility, and determination. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to get to the end of life and be able to say, “FEW REGRETS?!?”

3 Ground Rules for Playing the Dating Game

Why does “The Bachelor” have such a rabid following? It’s beyond me, but it sure appeals to lots of people! Maybe it’s because people know the drama of trying to find that “special someone,” and watching someone else go through it has a kind of vicarious romantic appeal (without the heartache, of course!). Whatever the reason, it’s a big hit.

 

           

Dating can be the best of worlds and the worst of worlds, particularly for young adults. There are so many new, fun, and interesting people to meet as one’s circles expand, but it’s also a mystery because you never know what will become of the people you meet. I recall feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster at Six Flags at that stage of life wondering if she was Mrs. Right. Yes, I, Mr. Analytic, even lost his objectivity from time to time. It never worked.

 

           

Do you (or does the teen/young adult in your life) have a random or a strategic mindset when it comes to dating?

 

 

 

Although true love can happen opportunistically (e.g., when my college sweetheart and I were successfully matched at a computer dance!), it pays to lay down some personal ground rules in your dating life.  One way is to become a “3D dater!” Seriously! Here’s what I mean by “3D”:

 

 

Be Discriminating

 

Be highly selective with your choices of dates. Sadly, so many people define their self worth by whether they’re dating someone that they “date for dating sake” and often compromise their values along the way. It always pays to be choosy by focusing on people who share similar interests, values, and goals.

 

 

 

 Be Discerning

 

Be wise when you date. Many approach dating so impulsively and emotionally that they simply don’t think clearly. Understand what you want in a relationship, like your goals and expectations, and have the courage to move on if it’s not a great fit. Also, avoid placing yourself in “high risk” situations with people you don’t completely trust.

 

 

 

Be Deliberate

 

Be patient. This is often the hardest thing to do when the infatuation is intense (or when a computer matches you!). However, if the relationship is truly meant to be, it needn’t be rushed. If you’re feeling pressured, have the strength and self respect to put on the brakes. If they’re not willing to, they’re probably not the best choice for the long term and you’re only delaying the inevitable.

 

 

By being a 3D dater, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success rather than settling for short-term, superficial gratification that’s so common today. You’re much more likely to find Mr. or Mrs. Right with fewer peaks and valleys (and heartaches) along the way!

 

                                                                       

 

As you reflect on any dating you’ve done in the past, how would you rate yourself along the 3D dimensions? If you are a parent or youth mentor, how can you communicate what you’ve learned with the young people in your life?

 

8 Ways to Communicate You Care

Valentine’s season reminds us of the value of relationships—and not just romantic ones.  Not only do sweethearts profess their admiration and affection for each other, but so do parents to their children, children to their teachers, friends to friends, and so on. In a rare creative moment, I once wrote a love letter using strategically placed candy hearts to share my thoughts. Bingo!

At the same time, Valentine’s Day can expose our vulnerability to these conflicting priorities: relationships versus things. While our society has progressed in many respects over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we’ve regressed in terms of relational health and depth. Sadly, with the distractions of technology and busyness, it seems to be getting worse.

Have you thought about what you really value in life? What are you communicating about your priorities to the ones you love—whether intentionally or unintentionally?

Relationships are enduring—things are not. The way we communicate this to our loved ones lies in how we prioritize our time, attention, and money. You can use the following list as either a self-check or a to-do list. Either way, we hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for communicating your love to others:

1. Be fully in the moment. When you’re with someone, be completely engaged (not on your phone, your Facebook, your Instagram, your Candy Crush game, etc.)

2.  Keep family and close friends at the top of your priority list in terms of time, energy, etc. Don’t just give them leftovers.  They’ll notice, even if they don’t mention it.

3. Focus on the important, not the urgent.  Sometimes maturity and experience are the best teachers on this lesson, but the sooner it’s learned, the better! Our tasks may seem urgent, but our relationships should take priority. This is especially important when our children want or need to talk.

4. Tune in to their uniqueness. Gifts, experiences, and expressions engender different responses from each of us. What uniquely means the most to them? Customize your giving wherever possible and you’ll surely hit the mark.

5. Express appreciation regularly. Be grateful for the people in your life and tell them how much you appreciate them. You don’t always have to communicate with outward displays of affection. Sometimes simple actions, like saying, “I appreciate you,” packing a family member’s favorite lunch (with a note in it), or doing an unasked favor can be just as meaningful.

6. Praise them in front of other people.  Say something nice about them when they are in earshot. You will help build their self worth and indirectly communicate how much you value them. (Great parenting pointer!)

7. Set aside time and money for special occasions and gifts. This may be harder for those whose “love” languages are not gift giving or quality time.  But for those who really need these things in order to feel loved and appreciated, they mean the world.

8.  Forgive offenses quickly and let them go. After all, you’d want your loved ones to do the same for you, right? Related, pick your battles carefully and when arguments do arise, keep your cool.

It pays to examine how we prioritize our time, energy, and finances to build strong relationships with family and friends. Do you the people you love know you care? How so?

Take a 3D Approach to Dating – PART 3

(This is part three in our 3D Dating series.)

Go – ready – set!
 
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, it certainly wouldn’t work at a track meet or on your tennis serve. And, it most definitely doesn’t work when we date—as we search for that Mr. or Mrs. Right. Nonetheless, it’s one of our most common relationship mistakes.
 
Unfortunately, when emotions and/or hormones are flying, READY-SET-GO can be difficult to execute when we think we’re “in love.” Patience is an incredible virtue when it comes to dating, but it’s often the hardest thing to exhibit when infatuation is intense. And, it’s an “equal opportunity” condition that happens to both teens and adults!
 
After making the commitment to be discriminating and discerning in one’s dating choices and practices, the third quality we want to encourage is being deliberate.
 

  • Intentional.
  • Patient.
  • Friends first!

 
Although they may not actively seek it, young adults sometimes need the measured time-tested wisdom of experienced people that enduring relationships needn’t be rushed. After all, our closest relationships should be marathons rather than sprints. Approaching it as a mad dash is generally an ominous sign of insecurity among either or both parties. The Hollywood, “three months and we’re good to go” approach rarely works.
 
There’s really no downside to taking it slow—not being desperate, hurried, or pressured. If they want things to move much faster than you, it’s time to have a serious heart to heart talk and get to the root cause. More often than not, it’s either a sign of a poor fit, insecurity, or simply the wrong time.       
 
Here are some qualities of a deliberate dater worth mentioning to the young people (and dating adults) in your life:

  • Go out because you are genuinely interested, not because they’re merely the best available
  • Avoid any pressure to go faster than is right; take steps to ensure the pace of a relationship works for both of you. Stay confident and in control. You’re worth it!
  • Focus on becoming best friends first (the new BFF!) and seeing where it goes rather than emphasizing the physical.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be so consumed with a new relationship that you curtail time with friends
  • Commit to really getting to know the other person and spend lots of time talking (A telltale warning sign of a rushed relationship is that more time is being spent “acting” than “talking.” Taking time to develop a friendship indicates they care more about you than they do about it!)

 
By being a 3D dater, who is Discriminating, Discerning, and Deliberate, you’re much more likely to find the right one with fewer peaks and valleys (and mistakes!) along the way.
 
Have you read our entire 3D dating series?  Which quality(ies) stood out to you as the most important and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
 

Take a 3D Approach to Dating – PART 2

This is part two of our “3D Dating” series, a timely topic as we head into Valentine season! We started last week with a look at being DISCRIMINATING. This week we talk about the second quality of a 3D dater -– being DISCERNING…
 
The teen years are an exciting time of self-discovery and getting to know other people. Teens are developing their own identities and learning about themselves—who they are outside of their parents and family—and are starting to recognize which kinds of friends are their best fit. But, whether they admit it or not, when it comes to relationships (and dating in particular), they still need the input of parents, mentors, and older friends to help them hone a very important quality: discernment.
 
Will your teen leave home with strong inner radar that will help guide his relationship choices? Have you equipped your young person with the gift of discernment to help her make prudent decisions in her dating life? 
 
It’s worth thinking about, because if parents don’t, others (including our media/entertainment culture) will fill in the gap! Knowing that, here are some helpful topics for you to discuss with your teen to ensure he/she is being a discerning dater:
 

  • Understanding what you each want in a relationship—your goals and expectations and ensuring they’re compatible.
  • Recognizing incompatibility of values, interests, and goals as soon as possible and  ending it if it’s not a fit. Don’t expect the other will change!
  • Ensuring that the timing is right for both of you. There’s no point investing in a new relationship if you don’t want the same thing at the same time.
  • Objectively assessing whether you’re feeling “love” or “lust.” Be brutally honest in evaluating your friend in this regard. If it’s lust, it won’t last!
  • Avoiding unsafe situations before they happen and never allowing yourself to be coerced into actions that compromise your values, risk getting out of control, or that you’ll later regret.
  • Warning them of danger signs—manipulation, put downs, physical or emotional abuse/isolation/control, pressure to drink or have sex, etc.  
  • Reminding them to stay objective and  be willing to opt out if a relationship isn’t working. Sometimes you want to make it work so badly, you overlook serious flaws. Don’t do that. 
  • Advising them not to trust too soon … don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position with someone you don’t know extremely well and with whom you’ve built a history of confidence.  Remember that true love takes time

 
Make sure your teens know they can talk to you at any time, without repercussion, especially if they get into a hot spot and need help. Establish a private code they can use to call or text you to let you know they need to be picked up NOW. 
 
Many troubling situations might have been avoided had the parties demonstrated discernment. Help your teen develop it.  It’s one of the most important qualities of being a healthy 3D dater! 
 
What ideas and tips do you have for teaching discernment to teens when it comes to dating? Share your suggestions with us; we and our other readers would love to hear from you!