It would be difficult to make it through middle school and impossible to make it through high school without hearing the story of Romeo and Juliet. Two star crossed lovers caught in the middle of a family feud and a forbidden relationship. It's really a sad story, a depressing tale that leads to the unnecessary death of pretty much everybody involved. This story has been told in many different ways by many different storytellers but now it's my turn. Here's the version of the story that I have seen time and time again. (I don't write story type stuff often so bear with me.)
Juliet grew up in the church. Her parents loved her and each other, this love was something that only a few of her friends understood. Statistically, her family was the exception to the rule of divorce and marital tension that seemed to plague most families in the US. She was homeschooled for a couple years early on. Most of her friends were church friends that she met at youth group. She enjoyed life, obeyed her parents (almost all the time) and began to develop Christian disciplines like daily Bible reading and journaling in junior high. Juliet's parents were fairly strict but they weren't too bad. Juliette was fairly laid back so she didn't mind curfew and things like that. The one rule that she didn't really get was the rule that she had to be 16 before she started dating. It hadn't been a problem for Juliette before but then again, she hadn't met Romeo yet.
Romeo was tall dark and handsome like any lead male should be in a romantic tragedy. He was a little bit of a rebel and had parents that were much more hands off than most. He was suave and passionate and carried himself with an air of danger that attracted twitter painted girls like moths to a flame.
For Juliet's freshman year at High School she convinced her parents to allow her to attend the local public High School. She felt strong in her faith and was ready to take on the challenge of evangelism and needed more of a social outlet than their small church could provide. She joined the cheer leading team and made some good girlfriends quickly, but it wasn't long before she caught Romeo's eye.
She was pretty in a cute and innocent way, and there was something about her that set her apart from the girls that Romeo normally liked. They started hanging out and developed a friendship that quickly blossomed into an incredibly romantic relationship. They laughed together for hours, and enjoyed similar music and movies. They exchanged phone numbers and began to talk every night about everything and nothing.
February came faster than they would have expected and Valentines day was just around the corner. Romeo planned it all out. He was finally going to make it official and ask Juliet to be his girlfriend. He brought flowers to school and a teddy bear that he spent way too much on. It had a heart in it's hand and it was cuddly and cute and it reminded him of the girl that he had fallen in love with. He was romantically irresistible and Juliet hung on every word as he expressed his love for her and gave her his letter jacket as a sign of their now public romance.
She was overwhelmed with emotion and wore a smile that began to ache by early afternoon but she didn't care. She was in love and now she knew for sure that he felt the same way. Everything was like a fairy tale until the last bell of the day rang and she realized that her mom was waiting at the curb. For some reason this was the time that her memory decided to kick in to bring to her attention the fact that she was still 15 and would not be 16 for several months.
Juliet was faced with a decision. Come clean with her mom and risk ruining something that made her so happy, or hide. She chose to hide and explained the situation to her new found love who chivalrously vowed to protect her from her evil mother who desired to keep them apart. They vowed to keep their love a secret and thus sealed their fate.
The relationship was passionate and the secrecy made it all the more exciting. They were living on the edge and it was exhilarating and exciting. Juliet's mom became suspicious of her daughters change in social behavior and her late night phone calls and began to ask uncomfortable questions. Rather than telling the truth Juliet continued to hide her love from her mom for fear that her mother would require an immediate break up; a thought that Juliette couldn't bare. The relationship continued to be something that created emotional distance between Juliette and her parents. They just wouldn't understand.
I could continue telling the story but I think you can probably let your own imagination fill in the rest. This fictional story is an example of countless stories that I've seen from students in my youth group as well as my own experience in high school. It seems to me that the "no dating rule" creates what I call a Romeo and Juliet complex in many young students. The attraction becomes stronger than it would have been because of the secrecy and the deceit. It creates distance between parents and their children because many students rather than being honest and seeking their parents out for advice in their maiden relationship voyage, hide from their parents and begin to resent their parents for trying to keep them from their "one true love".
The quick answer from my perspective is that parents should support their children and create an environment where it's okay to talk about these things. In my opinion dating shouldn't be against the rules. What seems to happen more often than not is that kids develop relationships weather it's against the rules or not. If the relationship is forbidden it becomes more exciting and it causes distance and deception. If young relationships were encouraged and children were able to talk through the ideas of dating and what that looks like from a very young age, I think we might see children benefiting from their first dating relationship and it might even provide a way for parents and children to bond. If and when a break up happens, teens will feel more comfortable seeking out their parents for emotional support if they've been getting emotional support the whole time. If they haven't been getting support from their parents from the get go, they will probably seek emotional support from other friends which could potentially lead to a rebound relationship that has all of the same problems compounded by emotional vulnerability that came from the previous break up.
Many students have their first boy or girlfriend at about the age of 15. They need to be prepared for this experience and they need to have mentors and parents that will help them through it in a positive way. Chances are it's not a "one true love" situation. But I guarantee that they learn a ton from it. I know I did.
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