Culture

Teens Admit They Don’t Know What a ‘Healthy Relationship’ Looks Like

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NPR reports that a growing number of schools are expanding their traditional sex ed curriculum to include lessons on relationship building. That’s right: school teachers are now expected to teach teenagers how to navigate successful, long-term monogamous relationships:

“Along with explicit sexual education classes, some schools are beginning to offer more G-rated lessons on love,” NPR explains. “Experts say the so-called ‘iGen’ is woefully unprepared to have healthy, caring romantic relationships and young people need more guidance. So schools are adding classes that are less about the ‘plumbing’ of relationships, and more about the passion.

Tragically, the article is proof that these students aren’t being given any kind of foundational instruction on how to establish or maintain intimate relationships. It’s powerful commentary on the prevalence of divorce as well as the lack of moral guidance from religious institutions and at home.

Researchers are placing the lion’s share of the blame on technology, specifically, the social and psychological impact of smartphones, texting, and social media usage. One high school girl interviewed in the report observed that it took her nearly two years to maintain eye contact with her long-term boyfriend. Together now for three years, friends often ask them if they aren’t “bored,” having been with each other for so long. “A lot of (students) have short attention spans,” says Aiden Geary. “People don’t have a lot of long term relationships because we want everything like now, and then once we have it we’re bored with it.”

The bottom line is that today’s teens have no real context for understanding romantic relationships. Previous generations had two-parent households, churches, synagogues, the Bible, and great works of literature to learn from. Today’s generation, largely influenced by pop culture-driven social media, has the Kardashians. As a result, they get sex, STDs, and birth control. What they don’t understand is how to relate to one another on an intimate level:

recent research shows young people are struggling with how to conceive of romantic relationships, let alone how to actually navigate them. “It’s a deep underlying anxiety,” he says, “so they’re looking for wisdom.” And it’s not enough to just give them “disaster prevention” kinds of sex ed classes, that only deal with pregnancy, STD’s and sexual violence, he adds.

“I think we are failing epically to have basic conversations with young people about the subtle, tender generous, demanding work about learning how to love,” Harvard Graduate school of Education Senior Lecturer Rick Weissbourd said. According to his data, about 70 percent of young people crave those conversations.

Parents, priests, pastors, and rabbis take note: Young people want to talk about love. It’s time to skip the politics and pop and start with the basics, beginning with Adam and Eve. Teach them how a couple can survive together despite losing their home, struggling in new careers, moving into unknown territory, and managing the loss of one son and desolation of another due to fratricide. In today’s day and age that sounds like a good starting point. And it’s the kind of drama that puts the Kardashians to shame.