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Helping Teens Establish A Moral Compass

A growing number of young people are continually placing themselves in very explosive circumstances. There are too many twenty year olds who want to be forty, but don't have the emotional responsibility to be sixteen. ...

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A growing number of young people are continually placing themselves in very explosive circumstances. There are too many twenty year olds who want to be forty, but don't have the emotional responsibility to be sixteen.

In this sophisticated world we live in, whether we like it or not, too many children are exposed to many things they are ill equipped to manage or even understand. When and where do children learn about the complexities of human relationships? Who teaches them about love, sex and marriage?

Some will learn some basic principles from their parents. Many will say that's where it belongs. However, if the real truth be told, few parents spend enough time talking to their children about sex, love, marriage and relationships.

Unfortunately, television and all of its' negativity tends to be the reference point for most teenagers and their understanding of relationships and the complex dynamics involved in establishing and sustaining healthy relationships.

Some school communities have tried to be courageous and develop comprehensive curriculums in this area. Unfortunately, they have gotten a lot of flack from parents who don't want their children exposed to any conversations about sex and human relationships. They believe that those areas of life should be covered at home.

In an ideal world, I would concur. Unfortunately, our world is not ideal. At best, it is wounded, fragmented and blinded by much selfishness. A growing number of parents, for whatever reason, are not engaged with their children. In a given week, their children are lucky if they spend a few hours of quality time with them, never mind taking time to address some of the more complicated life issues of growing up.

As a surrogate parent for over twenty years, I would welcome a comprehensive curriculum in the areas of sexuality education, marriage and the family. I believe there are some basic principles that most of us will agree on in the areas of respect, responsibility, accountability and non-exploitation.

The delicate areas will always be delicate. As long as teachers do not ridicule or demean certain religious viewpoints and we advocate tolerance and respect of viewpoints that are different or that we don't understand, I think school can be an excellent venue to reinforce some vital concerns regarding human sexuality, marriage and the family.

Too many high school students are reaching college without a moral compass. They have had all kinds of human experiences without any of the emotional tools to manage or navigate those experiences. Thus, a young man or woman going away to college is an emotional disaster. If that emotional woundedness is not healed, those circumstances can shackle a person for a long time to come. Those damaging human experiences can truly paralyze any future healthy relationships.

QJ is an outstanding athlete. He was a star in a number of high school sports. His grades, at best, were borderline because he never applied himself.

In his junior year, QJ fell in love. So he thought. Life as he knew it stopped. He abandoned his family, friends and his promising athletic career. He ate, slept and obsessed over this young woman. He was head over heels in love with this girl. He was willing to give up everything for her, even his family. And he did. He left everything.

Life looked so much better in other places. He went to those other places and realized that it was no better, and in some cases it was worse. QJ quit high school and had to work to support himself. His high school girlfriend stayed in school and just wanted to play. QJ could not play all the time, because now he had to pay rent, try to buy a car and manage insurance, not easy tasks for a high school dropout.

This new rhythm of life did not fare well with his beloved. QJ was less and less available for just playing. The weeks became months and this girl of his dreams became bored. Ultimately, she betrayed him and was unfaithful. Needless to say, he was devastated. His heart was broken. For weeks he cried privately and moped around. His whole world had caved in and he was barely sixteen.

Recovering from a broken heart is painful, even with a lot of support. Without support, it must be overwhelming. QJ is stubborn. He refused counseling, as he believes it is a waste of time. He was not very open to letting people in. At that time, he made a series of bad choices, all in the name of trying to cope with his being abandoned.

Of course, nothing got better. The situation only got worse. To add salt to QJ's wounds that were still bleeding, his girlfriend took up with his best friend. That was short lived. By the time that fling was over, she wanted to return to QJ, but he was still numb and trying to recover from the first revelation that she had been unfaithful.

She did not hang around. She dated a number of different young men. Finally QJ started to let go and get his life back on track.

Three years have passed since that nightmare. QJ's class has since graduated from high school. He has wandered here, there and everywhere trying to find his place.

During the summer he fell in love again. This young woman is a highly motivated student who went away to a pretty high-powered university. QJ again became motivated to return to school. He re-enrolled in a community college. He took a full course load and tried out for baseball. Being an excellent athlete, he made the team with ease.

However, his priorities were off. They were his girlfriend first, then baseball and lastly school. By Columbus Day weekend, he was pumped up to transfer in January to his girlfriend's school. He did not want to hear that his grades, at best, were weak and to make a transfer in January would be next to impossible because of his poor transcript. But he was determined.

Then, the bottom fell out. His energy, his why for working hard in school and making an effort to grow as a person, died. His girlfriend, the love of his life, cheated on him. QJ was devastated again. His whole life was shattered into a thousand pieces.

Could he recover a second time after such an emotional trauma? He is barely twenty and emotionally he has lived the life of a forty-five year old.

The only hope QJ and other young people like him have is if they get in touch with their inner person and try to develop the tools to help them heal and love again.

Hopefully QJ will get back on track, develop all of his wonderful gifts and realize that there is someone out there for him to love and be loved by equally in return.