It’s natural that as children age, they begin to pull away from us and peer groups often take priority. But don’t think that they aren’t watching us, because they are. It’s really important to talk throughout their life about their friends, and what friendship is. Those same characteristics become the foundation for healthy relationships in their future. What are the characteristics of a good, healthy relationship?
• Respect - Are you accepted for who you are? No one should pressure you into doing things you are not comfortable with, such as drinking, drugs, or unwanted physical contact.
• Safety - Do you feel safe emotionally and physically in all your relationships? You should feel comfortable without fear. Being physically safe means you are not being hurt or pressured into unwanted contact.
• Support - Does your boyfriend or girlfriend care for you and want what is best for you? Your boyfriend or girlfriend should understand if you are unable to hang out because you need to study or if a parent asked you to spend time with family.
• Individuality -Are you truly being yourself in this relationship? Be yourself; after all, being an individual is what makes you you!
• Fairness and Equality - Do you have an equal say in your relationships? From the activities you do together, you should have equal say in what takes place.
• Acceptance -Are accepted for who you really are? You shouldn't have to change who you are or compromise your beliefs to make someone like you.
• Honesty and Trust - Are you always honest and is your boyfriend or girlfriend honest with you? Healthy relationships do not exist without trust.
• Communication - You should listen to one another and hear one another out. Do you talk face-to-face (not just text) about your feelings? Effective communication is a must! Assertive communication and emotional awareness can help you deal with conflict. Good communication builds the foundation for healthy relationships.
As a parent, your actions are the best form of teaching! The best model you can give; are your own positive relationships. Don’t be afraid to talk with your child about dating, relationships and peer pressure. If we can talk with them as children or “tweens” and establish good communication with them, chances are it will continue as they age and the challenges in life get a little harder. If we help our children establish a healthy relationship at an early age, then chances are they will continue with that model as they grow up. Take time to talk about these characteristics with your children, whatever their age is and reinforce the qualities and values that are important to you. Don’t be afraid to share experiences about when friends let you down, or when you would have handled things differently. Help them think through options and recognize the consequences of certain actions. Sometimes if we can help them think through situation without negativity or telling them what to do, the outcome will resolve when they recognize behaviors that were not clear before the conversation.