Talking with Your Child about Relationships
Children start learning about relationships from birth. At that age, their relationship circle is mostly just family members. However, as kids get older, their circle grows. It will include friends and other kids, teachers, teammates and the community. Their online lives and relationships are just as important to them as their offline ones. It will be helpful for you to think about what you want your child to learn before you talk with them about relationships.
Think about Your Own Values
A good place to start is thinking about your own values and the values you want to pass on to your child. It’s also good to think about situations where you can talk about those values with your child. Everyday life often presents those opportunities.
Lead by Example
Take some time to consider if your behaviours match your values. Kids learn by example, and their biggest influence is you. Here are some things you can teach your child about healthy relationships:
- Treat people with respect. Model how to speak and solve problems in a respectful way. This will also teach your child to know if they’re being treated with respect.
- Manage anger. Show your child how to deal with anger in a positive, healthy, non-violent way.
- Solve problems. Teach your child how to break problems down and find workable solutions.
- Negotiate, compromise and agree to disagree. Show kids how to turn problems into ‘win-win’ situations so everyone gets some of what they want. It’s important for them to know when to ‘agree to disagree’, and that people have different views than theirs. Learning to understand and respect each other is what’s important.
- Be assertive, not aggressive. Being assertive is asking for what you want clearly and respectfully. Assertiveness means respecting the rights of others and your own rights. In contrast, being aggressive means that the rights of others aren’t respected.
Talking with Your Teen about Relationships
As your child gets older, they’ll start to have different types of relationships. They may have intimate friends with whom they can share deep feelings and secrets. They may have romances where they experience the thrill of attraction. And they may have sexual relationships ranging from deeply loving to purely physical.
Dealing with Pressure
Teens may feel pressure from their peers, or very close partners and friends, to do things they aren’t comfortable doing. Coach your teen on how to say ‘no’. This will help them become more confident and stay true to their values.
While you’re teaching them to say no, also teach them that no one has the right to force them to do anything they don’t want to do.
Click the link to learn about Understanding Consent.
Talk with your child or teen about the qualities an intimate friend or partner should have. Help them look for relationships with shared respect, honesty, loyalty, trust and kindness. This includes online relationships too. For more information, check out our Technology & Media page.
Remind your child or teen that their friends should treat them and others kindly. They should also treat their friends and others with equal kindness. Talk with them about what healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships look like.
Healthy, Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships
People have many kinds of relationships throughout their lives. These include relationships with family, friends, classmates, and teammates. As kids become teens, it can include sexual or intimate relationships.
Teach your child what healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships look like. When you understand and can model healthy relationships for your child or teen, they are more likely to learn to be in one themselves. The traits of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships are listed below. Most of these traits relate to any kind of relationship, including online ones.
|Healthy||Each person feels safe, comfortable, respected and strong enough to tell each other how they really feel.|
|Unhealthy||One person feels uncomfortable telling the other how they really feel.|
|Abusive||One person feels afraid to tell the other how they really feel. They fear being rejected, abandoned, being ‘put down’ or threatened.|
|Healthy||Each person listens to and respects the other’s point of view. They make decisions together.|
|Unhealthy||One person ignores the other, does not respect their opinions, or talks rudely to or about the other.|
|Abusive||One person treats the other with disrespect, ignores their ideas and feelings, or makes fun of them. They may use names and words to hurt.|
|Healthy||Each person has an equal say in the relationship. They show respect even when they disagree. They work things out together, so they each get what they need.|
|Unhealthy||One person is manipulative and isn’t accountable for their actions. The other person may go along with things they aren’t comfortable with because they were pressured into it.|
|Abusive||One person may use violence or threats to make their partner or friend do what they don’t want to do. The other person may be pushed into doing things that make them feel uncomfortable, afraid or ashamed.|
Intimacy and Sex (for sexual or intimate relationships)
|Healthy||Partners are honest about how they feel about being physical and having sex. No one feels pressured to do anything they don’t want to do. They want their partner(s) to have enjoyment and feel safe being themselves.|
|Unhealthy||One person is embarrassed or feels unsafe to say how they feel or what they need. They may go along with things they aren’t comfortable with because they were pressured into it. The needs of one person may be met but the other(s)’ needs may be overlooked.|
|Abusive||One person ignores the needs and wants of the other(s). A person may be pushed into doing things that make them uncomfortable, afraid or ashamed. Sexual activity may happen without consent.|
|Healthy||Each person can spend time alone and think of this as a healthy part of the relationship. There is a balance between time alone and time with each other.|
|Unhealthy||One person thinks there may be something wrong if another wants to do things without them. They try to keep the other person to themselves.|
|Abusive||One person doesn’t let the other spend time doing things alone. They see it as a threat to the relationship. They may keep a close watch on the other person’s activities and keep them from family and friends.|
|Healthy||Each person trusts the other(s). They are comfortable with their partner or friend spending time with other people.|
|Unhealthy||One person feels jealous when the other person talks to or spends time with someone else.|
|Abusive||One person accuses their partner of flirting or having an affair. They may order them to not talk to other people.|
|Healthy||Each person values the differences between each other and works to be non-judgmental. Each tries hard not to talk harshly to or about each other.|
|Unhealthy||There have been a few times when harsh words were used, and one person felt they may be harmed. However, there is no clear pattern of abuse yet.|
|Abusive||There is a pattern of verbal or mental abuse. This may include damaging belongings, name-calling, and threats to hurt or kill the other person, a family member or a pet.|
*Adapted from myhealth.alberta.ca
Warning Signs of Dating Violence
It’s common for teens to have mood swings and to try new things. However, sudden changes in your child’s attitude or behaviour could be a sign that something serious is going on. If you think this is the case, talk to your teen to learn more.
Here are some changes you might see in a teen experiencing dating violence. They:
- avoid friends, family, and school activities.
- make excuses for a partner’s behaviour.
- lose interest in favourite activities.
- have school grades that are dropping.
- have unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches.
For more information, visit our Additional Resources page.