How to help them cultivate healthy relationships for a happier relationship built on communication and consent.
As caregivers, we want the best for our young people, and that also goes for having the skills needed to establish and maintain healthy relationships with themselves and others. But what constitutes a healthy relationship? And, how do we, as parents and caregivers, help our tweens and teens develop the attributes and skills needed to have a healthy relationship?
What Makes a Healthy Relationship?
It is important that preteens and teens know what constitutes a healthy relationship. Attributes like trust, honesty, compassion, equality, respect, kindness, friendship, safety, consent, loyalty, and open communication are just some of the attributes that define a healthy relationship.
While they may understand the list of ideal attributes to strive for in a relationship, upholding and practicing those qualities in real life can be a different story. It is deeply important to work with them on open communication — talking with you about their struggles, their fears, their excitements, and more. This is an area where they can struggle, as most of us do.
Healthy Relationships Start With Us
To help guide our preteens and teens in cultivating healthy relationships, it’s essential we model and practice these characteristics in our own relationships. This starts by practicing self-awareness, reflecting on the behaviors and actions we exhibit in our relationships, and most importantly, being kinder and more compassionate to ourselves. When our preteens and teens see us celebrating and valuing our own positive qualities, they will do the same.
One of the greatest gifts our young children give us is the opportunity to work on ourselves. They challenge us to become more self-aware, show us our limitations in our thinking, and ultimately, uncover where we need to let go to improve and grow as a person.
Healthy Relationships Need Hard Conversations
To help support our preteens and teens as they cultivate what it means to have healthy relationships, we need to lovingly challenge them when we see situations arise.
Encourage them to have the hard conversations, and ask them to reflect on what matters to them. Let them know they deserve to be cared for, heard, and have their feelings and opinions validated.
It is mostly about paying attention. Carve out time with them to have moments where you can teach and discuss kindness, attentiveness, care, thoughtfulness, and how to work through the hard stuff.
Modeling a Healthy Relationship for Your Preteen or Teen
It’s common knowledge that we do what we know. So, it is so important to show our young people how to be in healthy relationships. Our preteens and teens take cues from their caregivers on how to handle situations and learn what love is by how they and other loved ones are treated. This is why we need to continue to better ourselves and put into practice what we want for our young people.
Healthy relationships are about what we value and how we put those values into action. Being able to talk openly about realistic values and expectations is a good way to start modeling these behaviors. As a caregiver, help them to identify what values they consider to be healthy and what expectations they feel they deserve in a relationship.
Modeling Healthy Behaviors (Conversation & Thought Starters)
To help you self reflect and see where you model healthy behaviors, start by asking yourself the following questions. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better understand how you care for yourself, your own communication style, and more, and will help you model behaviors you actually want to model for your children.
Find Ways to Care for Yourself
- How do you keep yourself healthy?
- What do you do when you are stressed?
- When you are about to blow your lid from anger, what do you do to calm down or decompress?
- How do you talk about yourself in front of your young person?
- How do you work through complicated feelings?
- Do you apologize when you are wrong?
- What are the ways you effectively communicate your own feelings?
- Are you demonstrating eye contact or other non-verbal indications to show that you are listening to those around you?
- How are you showing the people in your life that you care for them?
- Are you regularly asking for what you need and then doing the same for your partner or friends?
- Are you consensually asking for touch or to touch another to show you care?
- Who are your friends and partners?
- How do you handle conflict with your friends and partners?
- What things do you enjoy doing with your friends or partners?
- How do you compromise with them?
- How do you show them that they are special to you?
These are just some of the things to consider in our own modeling to our young people. It can feel like a lot, but just as we want the best for them, you also deserve the best. If you have a hard time with some of these, spend time reflecting on why that may be, and use this practice as an opportunity and tool for positive personal growth.
Continued Support For Healthy Relationships
As you continue to work on yourself and be a better role model for your children, you’re bound to have questions. BLOOM is here to help, whether you have questions around teaching body boundaries and consent, wonder what constitutes unhealthy relationships, or want more in-depth personalized Q&As and workshops. Raising young people is hard enough. We are here to help demystify and provide support.
Additional organizations for cultivating healthy relationships: