Healthy Relationships

Teaching Your Child About Healthy Relationships

Learning about relationships starts when children are young. As children grow their relationship circle grows beyond their family, to take in friends, peers, teachers, and team mates.

Parents, guardians, and caregivers have a big influence on teens and their decisions. During the teen years, youth are starting to make (or are making) decisions about relationships. It’s never too early to start teaching your child about healthy relationship, including intimate relationships, try to do this before they begin dating.

Teach your children by showing them positive social behaviours. By showing your child how to be open and honest, and how to treat people with respect, your child will be better able to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Where To Start

Reflect on Your Own Values

Now is a good time to reflect on your own values and behaviours around relationships. Start by thinking about your values and the values you want to pass onto your children.

Lead by Example

Take some time to see if you are using behaviours which reflect your values. Children learn through example, and you are their biggest influence.

Where Your Child Is Learning About Relationships

 

Teach Your Children:

  • Respect: Speak and solve problems in a respectful manner. This will teach your child how to treat people with respect and recognize when they are being disrespected.
  • Anger Management: How to deal with anger in positive, healthy, non-violent ways.
  • Problem Solving: Break problems down, find possible solutions, and consider possible outcomes for each solution.
  • Negotiation, Compromise and Agree to Differ: Try turning problems into “win-win” situations where each person gets some of what he or she wants. However, it is valuable to know when to “agree to disagree”. People are free to their views. It is learning to understand and respect others that is important.
  • Assertiveness — Not Aggression: Assertiveness is asking for what one wants clearly and respectfully, without threats, or physical force. Assertive communication means respecting the rights of others, as well as your own rights.

Talking To Your Teen

How to Talk to Your Teen about Healthy Relationships

  • Take your teen’s needs into consideration. Everyone deals with talking about personal stuff differently. For example, some teens may find it easier to open up when they are slightly distracted, like playing a sport or video game, some teens may want to set aside a date to talk. Do what is right for you and your teen.
  • Think about values and messages you want to pass along. Having your own answers to questions about healthy relationships and dating violence will help you be prepared for tough questions.
  • Limit major distractions.Try to avoid bringing up a topic when your child is fully focused on something else, like texting or when they are running out the door.
  • Choose a comfortable time and space. If you can, choose a time where some of the awkwardness that might come up can be deflected. For example, chat while cooking or eating dinner. Remember to take advantage of teachable moments when they occur.
  • Be open and honest. Share your own dating experiences (if relevant) so that your teen knows you understand. It will help him or her remember that you were once the same age.
  • Listen to what your child is saying. Let him or her finish speaking, even if you do not agree with what is being said.
  • Stay on topic. Your teen may want to avoid or change the subject, so keep the conversation on track by repeating your thoughts or asking questions. However, ensure you have selected a time when your child is open to talking, if not, commit to talking about it at another time.
  • Be open minded. If your teen tells you something you are not “prepared” to hear, it is important to stay open minded and non-judgmental. Your teen will be more willing to share if they feel you are trying to understand who they are.
  • Stay calm. If your teen reacts in a way that you do not like (e.g., rolls his or her eyes or looks away). Take a deep breath, breath out slowly and begin talking again when you are calm.
  • Set a good example. Your actions should match your words. This will help your teen respect your opinion if they see that you “practise what you preach”.

Conversation Starters

  • Try using teachable moments to start a conversation. When watching TV together, ask your teen how they would respond in that situation that come up on the screen.
  • Try starting the conversation with what to look for in a friend or romantic partner.
    For example, you could ask your child:

    • How do you want to be treated?
    • How do they feel about themselves when they are with a certain person?
    • Try using a bit of humour to decrease the stress of starting these types of conversations. However, be cautious not to make fun or light of the topic.

What You Should Talk About

Teach your children more than just the facts about their bodies, sex, and relationships. Every question and conversation is an opportunity to talk about values, life skills and relationships.

Dealing with Pressure

Teens may face pressure from their peers or partners to do something they are not comfortable with. Talk to your teen about how to be assertive and how to say no in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. This conversation will help them gain confidence and stay true to their values.

Relationships

It is difficult for parents to pick who their teens spend time with. It is important to teach your child to choose their friends wisely. Talk to your child about the qualities a friend or intimate partner should have. Help your child to look for relationships with which there is shared respect, honesty, loyalty, trust, and kindness. It is important to remind your child that their friends should treat them and others kindly.

Talk to your child about what a healthy and unhealthy relationship includes.

Healthy

Unhealthy

Shared respect

Lack of trust

Own identity

Abuse

Easy

Lying

Honesty

Manipulation

Trust

Put downs

Safety

Obsessive behaviours

Healthy communication

Power issues

Acceptance

Jealousy

Caring

No fun

Clear boundaries

Threats

Shared power

Bribes

Fun

Coercion

Friends and interest outside of relationship

Going against own values

Separate identities

Complete dependence on the other person

Fairness/equality

Limits

Support

Constant feeling of unease or stress

Sexuality

Talking to your kids about sex and sexuality may not be easy, but it is important. You can help them stay healthy and make good choices as they grow up.

For information on discussing sexuality with your child visit our communication page.

Sexual Decision Making

Talk to your teen about sexual decision making and the emotional maturity involved in sexual activity.

Ask your teen:

  • Are they feeling pressured to have sex? And where that pressure is coming from?
  • Why they want to have sex? Why does their partner wants to have sex?
  • Do they feel comfortable talking to their partner about sexually transmitted infections, birth control, and/or condoms?
  • If birth control fails how will the two of them handle an unintended pregnancy?

Talking about sexuality is a great time to discuss your family values.This is also an opportunity to get to know your teen and help them be safe, whatever they decide about sex. Remind them that both people agree to particiate (mutual consent); timing needs to be right for both people involved. Encourage your teen to make their own decisions about sexual activity before they are in the “moment” or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or pressure by others.

Age of consent refers to the age at which a person can legally consent to any and all forms of sexual activity. For more information on age of consent please visit our Teacher Portal section of this site.

Abusive Relationships

All abusive relationships are unhealthy, but not all unhealthy relationships are abusive. Anyone can be affected by abusive relationships, and they can be the abuser or survivor of the abuse. Abuse can occur in any type of relationship.

Types of Abuse

Abuse can come in many forms, and it generally gets worse slowy over time.

Forms of abuse common among teens include:

  • Emotional or psychological –attacks the persons self-esteem, includes put downs, guilt tripping, silent treatment.
  • Physical –Kicking, hitting, threat of force.
  • Social-The power of a group is used to embarrass and to intimidate an individual.
  • Sexual-can be both physical and emotional, and is anytime sexual activity is forced on someone.
  • Financial-this form of abuse can be difficult to recognize. It is when someone controls you with money and/or controls how you spend money.

Recently people have been using the Internet as a way of abusing people.

Warning Signs of Dating Violence

It’s common for teens to have mood swings and to try out different behaviors. However, sudden changes in your teen’s attitude or behavior could be a sign that something more serious is going on. If you think this may be the case, talk to your teen to find out more.

Here are some changes you might see in a teen whose partner uses violence:

  • Avoiding friends, family, and school activities
  • Making excuses for a partner’s behaviour
  • Loss of interest in favourite activities
  • Bad grades
  • Unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

More Information

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. For help in your community or for more information, please call the 24-hour Family Violence Info Line toll-free at 310-1818 or visit http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/593.cfm 

Connect Family and Abuse Network Focuses on sexual abuse and abusive relationships. It is a Calgary-based resource, which provides support services for Albertans.

Healthy Relationships Information on birth control, STI’s, sexual health and much more. This is an informative site for parents and youth to explore.

Red Cross Respect Education Courses Focuses on relationship violence.

Love is Respect Focuses on healthy relationships and abuse awareness.

Link Statement: Links to resources outside of the website are provided for information only and do not imply an endorsement of views, products, or services. Although our staff regularly reviews these links, we can’t be certain that they are 100% credible since their content can be changed at any time.

logos