Learning how to have healthy relationships — of all sorts, with adults, peers, or romantic partners — is an important part of growing up. Relationships are critical in the transition to adulthood because relationships help us form a sense of self, nurture our mental and physical health, meet our needs, learn about different cultures and navigate the systems of society (education, workforce, health care, etc.).
Often, when we talk about healthy relationships, we tend to actually focus on unhealthy relationships. And 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 and self-confidence, good communication, problem solving and positive conflict resolution. These are some ways you can help teens learn how to have healthy relationships:
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 with peers and partners 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]