Learning how to have healthy relationships with adults, peers, or romantic partners is an important part of growing up.
Relationships are critical in the transition to adulthood because they help us form a sense of self, nurture our mental and physical health, meet our needs, learn about different cultures, and navigate social systems, such as education, the workforce, and healthcare.
Often, when talking about healthy relationships, we tend to focus on unhealthy relationships. While it is certainly necessary to talk about what is unhealthy, there’s so much to learn in how to cultivate healthy relationships, too. Healthy relationship characteristics include mutual respect, trust, understanding, honesty, individuality, self-confidence, good communication, problem solving, and positive conflict resolution.
These are some ways you can improve your interactions with the teens in your life and help them learn how to have healthy relationships with others:
1. Encourage the process
Relationships are hard — it takes work from all parties to have a healthy relationship. Know that this learning is a typical part of adolescent development. Talk often and openly with your teen about their relationships and help them come to their own understandings and decisions.
2. Affirm them
Make sure your teen knows they have a right to be their own person and maintain their individuality in a relationship. Be firm that mutual respect, trust, and understanding are not optional, and any kind of abuse is not okay.
3. Problem solve together
Teens face so many pressures as part of growing up. Solving problems, communicating effectively, and exercising positive conflict resolution and negotiation are skills that must be learned. Be involved in your teen’s life — know their friends and what is going on so that when they have a problem, you can help them develop these skills.
4. Ask for help
You don’t have to have all the answers — just talking to your teen and helping them to find the answer is supportive.
5. Model healthy relationships
Your relationship with the young person you care about is a great opportunity to model the characteristics of healthy relationships.
Forming positive social connections promotes physical, social, and emotional health and well-being, and you can help the young people you care about mature into adults who enjoy healthy relationships and thrive. For more resources, check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, Love Is Respect, and Futures Without Violence.
Gina Desiderio, Director of Communications, Healthy Teen Network, [email protected]