Part 6 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series
As we all take a deep breath, and calm our excitement over the recent announcement by the First Presidency, it’s a good time now to settle back and maintain focus again. It seems fitting to be talking now about what it means for a returned missionary in terms of their social well being. The LDS dating scene is about to get turned on its head as our returning missionaries will soon find a different kind of dating pool on their return over the next 2 years.
Friends and dating.
President Hinckley has said that in order to remain active and become integrated in the church, new converts need a friend, a meaningful assignment, and to be nurtured in the good word of God. Now, instead of providing those things for others, your missionary needs to get them for himself or herself. Families can help. Social life is a big challenge for many returning missionaries. It is hard to go from having constant companions, even if you don’t like them, to not having anyone to hang out with. It is especially hard if old friends have moved on, or have not grown up while the missionary has. Returning missionaries may have to work at making friends and dating again, and that can feel awkward. Avoid jokes about marriage, and help them manage outside pressure to make decisions about marriage too fast. Help them trust themselves to just date, learn to be friends with the opposite sex, and not feel that every date requires an immediate decision about marriage potential. Have fun helping them think of things to do, people to do them with, and ways to connect, and support them in taking time for this important part of life.
What do I think?
You may not want to know what I think on this matter, as I could expound all day on the seriously poor dating skills that are out there at the moment. But, as Dave and Wendy suggest, it’s important for us as parents to avoid making it more awkward for them than it already is, so I’ll hold my tongue 😛
The biggest thing that we have done to help our three marriageable age daughters is to make our home a place where young people want to be. As parents we decided early on that to assist our girls in finding their social mojo, and eventually their eternal companion, we would offer our home as a place where they could bring their friends to hang out and socialise. Many of you may remember the Food Friday piece I wrote about ‘Pancakes and the Maurer’s’? We used these occasions to invite many young people into our home.
It’s my belief that the more opportunities our young people have to mix and mingle with the opposite sex, the easier it is for them to identify the characteristics and qualities they most want in an eternal companion and the the less painless it is for them to learn the art of socialisation. It also gave us opportunities as parents to meet their friends and discuss these things with our daughters openly. As Dave and Wendy suggest, the key is to making it fun for them and supporting them along the way.
But I place a huge caveat on my statement above! This is not an opportunity for parents to enforce their ideas and preferences on their child. Remember the last post I wrote on ‘Renegotiating Family Relationships’? That relationship is now one of support and encouragement, not rule making, curfews and parental expectations. They are adults now, and need the freedom to make their own choices, no matter how much you feel they could be wrong.
1. Is it appropriate for parents to set curfews and rules about dating in the life of their returned missionary?
2. What are some ways that you think you could assist your returned missionary to become integrated back into a healthy social life?
3. Do you have any creative ways that you have used to support a missionary on their return to the dating scene?
4. In what way do you think the change to the ages of missionary service will affect the dating habits of our returned missionaries?
**Part 7 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ we’ll talk Singles Wards and Church Callings.