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Remember back when you were first in love? You had a good job, but you lost it because you took a two-hour lunch so you could take him to get his unemployment check?

Being in love the first or even second time around is like any other thing we’re new at. It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s awkward, it’s mysterious. Most first love affairs end up in a break-up that’s painful and sometimes devastating. If you’re a parent with children of dating age, there are so many things you wish you could tell them that would make their experiences as easy and painless as possible. But we know that they have to grow and learn from dumb mistakes just like we did. It’s all normal stuff.

But every once in a while, something that starts out normal takes a bad turn. Someone in the relationship is mentally or physically abusive, and it will not end well. Just like we can’t prepare ourselves for a day when one of our children drowns in a pool, there’s no way to be prepared for the news that someone you’ve nurtured for most of their lives is being abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Chris Brown and Rihanna without their fame and fortune would be a normal young couple with a lot of the same pressure, problems and challenges of any other 19- and 20-year-old who are dating. Their fame and fortune takes all of that to another level. I’m not making excuses for either of them. I’m just saying their pressures, problems and challenges were magnified because of who they are.

Now that it’s happened, the only way they can turn it into something remotely positive is for both to make efforts to figure out how they each got in the situations they found themselves in. It’s a chance for him to acknowledge his abusive personality and enroll himself into a program that will help him figure out strategies that will keep him from acting on his violent impulses. It’s also a chance for her to honestly speak to young ladies about avoiding abusive relationships, once she deals with why she may have stayed in one so long. We don’t have all the facts in the Chris Brown/Rihanna story, and I don’t think we need them. Your young children certainly don’t. What they need to know is simple. A man should never hit a woman, but it does happen, and when it does, the man will be arrested. A woman should never allow a man to hit her or continue in relationship where that is happening. But it happens, and when it does, it’s painful and humiliating.

Your children should be told that we know the story about Chris Brown and Rihanna beause they’re famous, but women are being abused every day. This Valentine’s Day weekend, just like last year and many years before, I will visit a shelter for women in abusive relationships and take them flowers. The flowers are just a token of love, but in the end will do nothing to make sure these women go on to live healthy lives without the worry of being abused again.

If your kids hear about the Chris Brown and Rihanna story, but you do nothing to make sure they understand it and know how to remove themselves from a situation that could lead to abuse, you’re not giving them the survival tools they will need for happy, healthy relationships. All

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