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While serving as bishop in a young single adult ward, I couldn’t help but notice how young people handled their emerging relationships.I was increasingly worried about those who approached dating with very little purpose, understanding, or direction.We often read together and discussed Church standards on how to develop relationships.We found that it was a good idea to mix up the settings for our various discussions.We specifically wanted our children to learn through discovery, observation, counseling together, and especially practicing relationship skills.Our “curriculum” was based on our outline of gospel doctrines, Church standards and guidelines, skills, activities, and objectives that we wanted our children to know and practice before they started dating.Some were apathetic, while others were much too zealous.
You can imagine the funny looks we received at this announcement!I remember driving home with my wife from a ward social activity feeling particularly frustrated at what I’d seen. In the end, my wife and I concluded that the skill of developing worthwhile relationships is something a person indeed learns, whether from peers, family, a course or book, culture, traditions, or religious beliefs and practices.We immediately thought of our own children and wondered if we were adequately preparing them for their future relationships.In all of this we felt that we needed to start early—long before our children began dating—and we wanted our experience to be filled with learning and teaching that were natural and hopefully fun.We fully understood, too, that we would be competing with the way the media portray relationships.
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After inviting our child to watch a particular couple or group, we might ask, “What did you notice about this couple?