With extremely popular movies like Netflix’s Let It Snow glorifying romantic relationships, it can feel like the pressure is on to get a significant other before Christmas rolls around. (It’s only seven days away, but who’s counting.) Our culture has gotten it into our heads that the only way we can be fulfilled is by having romantic relationships and eventually marriage. During the Christmas season especially we’re bombarded with commercials featuring happy families, Hallmark movies where the girl always gets the guy, photos of couples on social media, and...you get the picture.
Whether or not your teen is cuffed this Christmas shouldn’t determine their worth, happiness, or enjoyment of the season. Nonetheless, it’s easy to fall into a pit of loneliness and longing when it seems like Christmas is only merry when enjoyed with “The One.” We’ve rounded up a few reasons our kids fall into this trap, as well as some ways we can reshape their perspective on love this Christmas season.
We may have set the wrong tone
Our kids are captivated by the idea of romantic love, believing it to be the be-all-end-all of a satisfied life. Why? Many reasons, of course, but one huge reason is our culture’s obsession with romantic love, especially during Christmas time. How many Christmas movies are about the unlikely romance somehow working out, about the small-town girl falling in love with a prince, about someone being saved from themselves by the perfect person? Approximately 99.9%, that’s how many. So it’s no wonder our children grow up believing that romance is everything their souls long for and need! Of course, romance and marriage are good, but they’re not what we were made for and therefore will never fulfill them as hoped.
In addition, the (well-intended) verbiage we use with our kids often contributes to this idealized status of romance. We say things like, “When you get married…” subtly implying that marriage and romance are definitely part of their futures and even, to some extent, that their lives won’t be complete without them. Or “Don’t worry, you’re so young! There’s plenty of time.” Yes, they are young, but when we say this, we’re not only frustrating them (they’re lonely, and simply telling them to not be lonely doesn’t actually make them not lonely), we’re missing an opportunity to disciple them into a deeper understanding of Jesus’ love and why humanly love will always disappoint. It’s just the cherry on top when Aunt Judy asks at Christmas dinner for the third year in a row, “Are you dating?” A deflated and slightly embarrassed response of “No, I’m not…” doesn’t feel great to say aloud.
Shift the focus
We need to help our kids to see singleness as less of a curse and more of a positive thing. But for that to happen, we need to see singleness as a good thing. So maybe instead of using phrases like, “You’ll have a boyfriend one day” (which ultimately places the focus back on the idol of romance), teach your kids that the single life doesn’t have to be a lonely life. Just having the title of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” will not solve anything. Texts will be left on read, dates won’t be as fun as expected, social pressures will still exist. Over winter break, encourage your teen to invest in the relationships they care about—like their BFF, friends on the track team, or the cousin they’re super close with—instead of obsessing over being in a relationship.
Social media has a loud voice
Do you ever scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see floods of posts about new promotions, beautiful babies, fancy cars, and perfectly decorated (and somehow clean) homes? It can make us feel small and bring up thoughts like, “If I could just have this, my life would be so much better.” Our kids experience this daily, hourly even. Since they were raised in a technological, media-centric world, there’s really no escape from the constant comparison of one life to another. All they have to do is hop on social media or turn on the TV for five minutes, and despair begin to arise: “She has a boyfriend, what’s wrong with me?” “Look what he got her for Christmas!” “Why can’t I find a guy/girl like that?”
It’s hard to forget feelings of loneliness when they’re constantly accosted by adorable couples, ridiculously perfect lives, and captions emphasizing just how happy they are. With influencers like the one below thrown into the mix flaunting lavish lifestyles with their significant others, our kids don’t stand a chance against the perfection they’re exposed to.
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A post shared by Jill DeConti (@jilldeconti) on
Shift the focus
Remind your kid that people are not as perfect as they want the world to think they are. With influencers, they’re paid to create and maintain that perfect image. Even though we can’t see it, their relationships have hardships, days can feel long and burdensome, and loneliness does permeate even the happiest of couples. Ask your kid:
- Do you envy this person’s life? Why?
- What do you feel like you need to have to be happy?
- What are some things in your life now that make you happy?
They’re still trying to find their identity
The teenage years are confusing. It’s the first time that they get to make some of their own decisions, find out what they love, and figure out who they are. But for a lot of teens, their identity is rooted in their relationship status. How can they climb up the social ladder without a significant other? Who will they post about on their TikToks? The pressure is real because their classmates are all dating (of course, not all, but that’s what it seems like), so if they’re not, then something must be wrong with them.
Dating can be a healthy thing for a teen (check out our Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating for more), but the issue arises when your kid can’t be their own person without an S/O. We know that our identity is first and foremost in Christ, but our kids are also shaped by things like clubs, friendships, passions, family life, and so much more beyond being in a relationship. Our kids won’t always see it that way, because they’re still longing for someone, anyone, to date. And when the desire is not met, feelings of disappointment and sadness are bound to set in.
Shift the focus
Don’t be afraid of your child’s loneliness or sadness. As Christians and parents, we tend to want to fix everything. But we can’t. Be willing to free yourself from that burden of perfection and instead simply sit with your kid, listen, and point them gently and lovingly to the One who loves them unconditionally (when it makes sense; no need to drill it into them). Try to resist the urge to solve your kid’s situation, and let them work through it themselves. Offer to watch silly Christmas movies together, go shopping, go out and do something fun, pursue an interest or hobby, or just sit and hang out with them. And if all they’d like is a little space, that’s okay too. As much as we hate to see them suffer, sadness is part of our human experience, and it can be a great teacher.