Three teens talking about relationships and sexual health


Talking with Your Child about Relationships

Children start learning about relationships from birth. As they get older, their relationship circle grows beyond their family to include friends and other children, teachers, teammates and the community. In many cases their ‘online lives’ and relationships are just as important to them as their ‘offline lives’ and relationships. Here are a few things to think about before talking to your child about relationships.

Think about Your Own Values

Now is a good time to think about 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’re using behaviours that match your values. Children learn by example, and you’re their biggest influence. Here are some things you can show and teach your child about healthy relationships:

  • Treat people with respect: How to speak and solve problems in a respectful way.  This will also teach your child to know when they’re being treated with respect—or not.
  • Manage anger: How to deal with anger in a positive, healthy, non-violent way.
  • Problem-solve: How to break problems down, find possible solutions and think about possible outcomes for each solution.
  • Negotiate, compromise and agree to disagree: How to try turning problems into ‘win-win’ situations, where each person gets some of what they want. It’s important for them to know when to ‘agree to disagree’ and that its okay for people have a view different from theirs. Learning to understand and respect others is what’s important.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive: Being assertive is asking for what you want clearly and respectfully, without threats or physical force. Assertive communication means respecting the rights of others, as well as your own.

Talking with Your Teen about Relationships

As your child gets older, they’ll start to have different types of relationships. It’s important that they know that no one has the right to force them to do anything they don’t want to do. Here are a few topics that you might want to talk about with your teen and also keep in mind as a parent.

Dealing with Pressure

Teens may feel pressure from their peers or from their sexual or intimate partner to do something they aren’t comfortable doing. Talk with your teen about how to be assertive and how to say ‘no’. This will help them become more confident and stay true to their values.

Clink the link to learn about Understanding Consent.


Talk with your child about the qualities a friend or someone they’re intimate with should have. Help your child to look for relationships with shared respect, honesty, loyalty, trust and kindness. This includes online relationships too. For more information go to, check out our Technology & Media page. Remind your child that their friends should treat them and others kindly. Talk with them about what a healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationship includes.

Healthy, Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships

People have different kinds of relationships throughout their lives. Some examples include relationships with family, friends, classmates, and teammates. As children get older, it can include sexual or intimate relationships.

Understanding the differences between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships will help you model and teach your child the difference between them. These differences are also part of online relationships. Below are the traits of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships. Most of these traits can relate to any kind of relationship, but a few deal with sexual or intimate relationships.


Sharing Feelings

  Healthy Both people feel safe, comfortable 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 are scared of being rejected, abandoned, getting ‘put down’ or being threatened.



  Healthy Both partners listen to and respect each other’s point of view. They make decisions together.
  Unhealthy One person ignores the other and does not respect their opinions.
  Abusive One person treats the other with disrespect. One person ignores the other’s ideas and feelings or makes fun of them.



  Healthy Both people have equal say in the relationship. They show respect to each other even when they have disagreements. They work things out together, so they both get what they need.
  Unhealthy One person is embarrassed to say how they feel or what they need. One person may go along with things they may not be comfortable with.
  Abusive One person ignores the other’s needs and wants. One person may be pushed into doing things that make them feel uncomfortable, afraid or ashamed.


Intimacy and Sex

  Healthy Both partners are honest about how they feel about being physical and having sex. Neither person feels pressured to do anything they don’t want to do.
  Unhealthy One person is embarrassed to say how they feel or what they need. One person may go along with things they may not be comfortable with.
  Abusive One person ignores the other’s needs and wants. One person may be pushed into doing things that make them feel uncomfortable, afraid or ashamed.


Time Alone

  Healthy Both people can spend time alone and think of this as a healthy part of the relationship.
  Unhealthy One person thinks there may be something wrong if the other wants to do things without them. One person tries to keep the other to themselves.
  Abusive One person doesn’t let the other spend time doing things because it’s seen as a threat to the relationship. One person may monitor the other person’s activities and isolate them from family and friends.



  Healthy Both people trust each other. Both people are comfortable with each other 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 the other of flirting or having an affair. One person orders the other not to talk to other people.



  Healthy Both people value the differences between each other and work to be non-judgmental. Both partners try 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 at risk of harm. There is no clear pattern of abuse.
  Abusive There is a pattern of increasing or ongoing verbal or psychological 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

Warning Signs of Dating Violence

It’s common for teens to have mood swings and to try out different behaviours. However, sudden changes in your child’s attitude or behaviour 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 who is experiencing dating violence:

  • avoid friends, family, and school activities
  • make excuses for a partner’s behaviour
  • lose interest in favourite activities
  • school grades are dropping
  • unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

For more information, visit our Additional Resources page.


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