Sunday, 11 November 2007

What words for teaching about love?

Love and the overwhelming power of the feelings connected with love have been on the top of my mind over the last few weeks. At a friends wedding the lump in my throat was very big as speeches were made - the love was palpable and it felt amazing. A couple of friends have also had babies this month and alll parents are just describing the immediate strength of their love. And last night I went to a friends pre-wedding party (a modern day hen do, with men and women - is that a sten or a hag do?)

As often happens at these party's those who have already committed to marriage think nothing of the huge decision that has been made - to commit to someone for the rest of their life - and those who have not yet got to that point, stand in the corner and wander how she knows this is the right time and the right one - even though we can tell by the sparkle in her eyes and the ways she is that it is the right time. Last night a friend and I talked about how we can communicate the concept of love to young people so they understand it, look for it, feel it, work at it, treasure it and are not be fooled by it. In a world that is perhaps increasingly cynical about enduring love it seems important to me, that we spend some more time discussing love with our young. If anyone has found good ways of doing it, that have truly engaged with young people I would be interested to find out what you have found works.


Vicky M said...

Dear Simon,

Thanks for a thought-provoking blog (I was watching television, but now find myself contemplating the meaning of love, and how to "teach" it!). I work for an organisation in Coventry which works in the field of sexual health and relationships with young people. One of the challenging things is the use of language. For example, do you use "doctor's language" and risk confusing young people; do you use "young people's" language and risk upsetting the teaching staff, or do you use "baby talk" and end up making no sense whatsoever (Anyone who has ever had to untangle the myths of gooseberry bushes or storks will know what I mean!). We usually move through it with a mixture of all the above categories, with several words for the same body part or sexual activity.
I was once told that the eskimos have 27 words for snow. I am now not sure that I should call them "eskimos" - isn't the correct term "inuit"? - and neither do I believe that there are really that many words for snow. So, how on earth do we talk to young people about love, about feelings? Do we, as adults, as professionals, have the vocabulary? Do we, as partners, spouses, lovers have the experiences or skills to support young people? Do any of us, in fact, have all the answers; any of the answers? Do we even know what the questions are?
One way I have found to engage young people in discussions around "love" is to ask them what they think it means, and what they think adults think it means. It is not unusual for young people to think that we can give them the answers. Perhaps the first step towards a healthy conversation with young people is for us to admit that there is no "one true way" through the minefield that is "love", and that adults don't always know the answers either?

Simon Blake said...

Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I thought i had but it had not appeared so a second edition! I think you are right and doing it that way means entering into a genuine relationship with young people, trusting them and creating a dialogue.

Given some of the headlines about young people being feckless and irresponsible, we have a big job to do encouraging some adults that if we trust young people, enjoy their energy and enthusiasm and walk alongside them, they learn about respect, which is a cornerstone of all relationships, and the premise from which they can learn about and learn to love.