As children continue to grow and create relationships with others, it is important to talk to them about creating and maintaining healthy relationships. This helps avoid abuse and toxic relationships that may ruin the wellbeing of your child both physically and mentally.
Here are a few tips to help communicate and teach your kids about healthy relationships.
1. Create an Open Environment for Your Child to Talk to You
Communicating with your child about important topics like relationships requires an open environment devoid of judgments. This fosters honesty and openness on the part of your child while allowing you to truly learn and talk to them in return. When planning to talk to children about healthy relationships, choose a conducive time and a relaxed setting free from distractions or third parties. Listen to your kids when talking and aim to understand rather than just respond.
If you feel like your child is withholding information, make them comfortable by relating to them and sharing your experiences. You can also use real-life examples as you talk them through the dynamics of relations to help them get a better understanding. For success, ensure that you create a close relationship with your child for them to feel free with and around you.
2. Define A Healthy Relationship and Point Out Red Flags
The first step to teaching children about healthy relationships is letting them know what a healthy relationship looks like. Let them understand that healthy relationships involve respect, honesty, and communication. Also, inform them that although compromise is important in a relationship, it should not be one-sided or manipulative. By laying down the characteristics of a healthy relationship, your kids are in a better position to gauge whether or not they should keep holding onto the relationships they are in.
As you define what a healthy relationship looks like, it also points out red flags to look out for, such as aggressive behavior, lack of respect for boundaries, control, and unequal power dynamics: most times, these warning signs signal issues in the relationships that need resolving. However, let them know that the red flags may escalate into abusive behavior and create toxic relationships. In such cases, guide your child on how they can get out of such situations.
3. Teach Your Children About Boundaries
Boundaries in any relationship help prevent abuse and manipulation. When teaching your children about healthy relationships, you need to also talk to them about setting personal boundaries. These consist of what they can tolerate and where they draw the line in a relationship. Boundaries should also be physical and help your child choose how to show and receive affection. An example is teaching your child that for first meetings with someone, a handshake is appropriate and enough.
The best way to help children define boundaries is by going back to family values and how they apply to the relationships they make, be it platonic or romantic. As you help your child set up boundaries, teach them that other people also have boundaries that they need to respect
4. Be a Role Model
Children learn a lot by watching what other people do. This means that how you act around others will influence your children’s actions and their perspectives about relationships. Be mindful of how you interact with those around you, be it your partner, friends, and family as well as strangers. Children who look up to you will watch your actions and words and strive to behave just like you. As such, if you strive to build healthy relationships, your children will do the same.
Ensure that you are always upholding what you train your child in your daily interactions by treating others with respect, maintaining your boundaries, being honest, and communicating in the right manner. This way, you don’t put your child in a state of confusion by saying one thing and doing the opposite.
6. Seek Help If You Need To
If for some reason, you are unable to spark a conversation with your child, especially teenagers, about healthy relationships, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Instead, reach out to other parents, friends, or professionals like guidance and counselors for help. You can even refer the children to a third party to talk to them on your behalf. This way, you contribute to your child’s wellbeing without worrying about whether or not you are doing it right. However, it is important that you make it an ongoing conversation and always strive to let your child know that they have an adult they can go to with regards to their relationships.
Toxic relationships lead to a myriad of problems, which may lead to issues like anxiety when interacting with others. By teaching your children about healthy relationships, you set them up to build meaningful relationships with their peers and future partners, which is crucial for their overall wellbeing.