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Healthy Relationships vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Being a young person can be tough. Youth begin to develop many different kinds of relationships: friends, family, teachers, and dating relationships. In any of these kinds of relationships, both people may need to compromise and work through issues that come up. Sometimes, however, s a relationship can feel uncomfortable or even unsafe. Teens may not realize that this is an unhealthy relationship.

Adolescence is also a time when young people learn how to make decisions about relationships. What they learn now about how to treat others will affect relationships throughout their lives. But young people can't do this by themselves. They need adults--parents, teachers, coaches, and others--to help them choose respect.

Going over the following points with your child can help both of you understand what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy. Also note that even if a relationship has only one of these poor characteristics, it could be considered an unhealthy relationship.

Once you and your child understand what makes a healthy relationship, you can help them prevent being in an abusive and unhealthy relationship by teaching them some key skills that will help them give and get respect in any relationship they have. Those skills include:

  • Controlling Anger: Thinking before speaking, especially when angry. Taking a deep breath or walking away until calmer. Never expressing anger through physical abuse. Being aware that anger can be a cover-up for other emotions, and looking for the real feelings behind anger.

  • Problem Solving: Breaking up the problem into manageable pieces. Identifying possible solutions and considering the likely outcome(s) for each possible solution.

  • Negotiating and Compromising: Looking at problems objectively, acknowledging differing points of view. Striving to find "win-win" solutions. Realizing that healthy relationships involve give and take on both sides.

  • Being Assertive: Being clear and open about feelings and expectations. Respect one's own needs as well as those of others. Not confusing assertiveness with aggression. Aggression is an abusive way to express feelings and expectations. In contrast, assertiveness is an honest and courageous way to express oneself.

  • Fighting Fair: Recognizing that all relationships have disagreements, but how a couple deals with conflict is important to the health of the relationship. Stick to the subject, avoid insults, and don't bring up past hurts. Understanding that it's okay to excuse yourself and return to the discussion when calmer.

  • Understanding: Taking a minute to understand what others might be feeling--putting yourself in their shoes. It can improve your communication skills and help form healthy relationships.

  • Listening: Not only talking when communicating, but listening. Keeping lines of communication open. Allowing others to express their opinions without forcing yours on others to win an argument.

  • Being a Role Model: Remember to take every opportunity to show respect for others. Help others to see where they agree and disagree. This will help everyone know how to choose respect in relationships.

Unfortunately, as a parent, you cannot prevent everything. With any relationship, only the two people involved can know exactly what is going on. However, there are outward warning signs even as subtle as putting someone down or trying to change how someone dresses. Below are some warning signs to look for as a parent:

Warning signs of someone being abused:

  • Depression or loss of confidence

  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies

  • Noticeable changes in eating or sleeping patterns

  • Worrying about making a dating partner angry or jealous

  • Excuses the dating partner's bad behavior

  • Isolation from family and friends

  • Spending too much time with a dating partner

  • Suspicious bruises or injuries

  • Alcohol or drug use

Warning signs of an abuser:

  • Insults made to a dating partner in public or private

  • Controlling behaviors (controlling how a dating partner dresses or acts, who he/she spends time with, checking in constantly)

  • Personal history of aggression, bullying, or having trouble controlling anger

  • Threats to hurt self or others

  • Damaging a dating partner's personal belongings

  • Extreme jealousy

Whether you suspect your child is being abused or is an abuser, or if you would like to talk with them about healthy relationships in general, you want to talk with your child in a way that will help the most. Click HERE for tips for talking with your teen about healthy relationships. Remember that if you talk to them, they will listen!