A conversation on healthy relationships with your teen
It might be more common that we sit down with our teens when we see an unhealthy relationship they have, whether with a sibling, friend, or romantic partner. This doesn’t have to be the case. A discussion on healthy relationships can be had without strife. Think about how your child views themselves – are they overly critical? Can they self-regulate their emotions? Are they open to others sharing their space and expressing emotion? How do they treat themselves in good and bad times?
Having healthy relationships is not just about romantic attachments. Children first learn how to have healthy relationships through those they have with family and friends. Additionally, a large part of having good relationships with others comes from having a healthy relationship with themselves. These are aspects of healthy relationships that are important for all relationships.
Individual identity: No one should base their sense of self on a significant other. Everyone is their own person with their own interests, ideas, and dreams. Relationships are beautiful because you get to learn about others as their own individuals and share the unique things that make you who you are.
Supported self-sufficiency: Codependency is when you are too reliant on one other person to give your life purpose and stability. We should be supportive of our loved ones and invested in helping them, but we also need to support ourselves and invest in our own success.
Honest communication: Communicating frequently and honestly can be hard work. We often neglect to bring up things that upset us or concern us, even to the people we love. It is important not to keep important things that affect your relationship to yourself, because it will only become harder to bring up.
Respectful collaboration: Consider you and the people who you have relationships as a team. Teammates want the best for the other and share common goals. Everyone should be giving and receiving support, while not overextending themselves. Disagreement happens, but different opinions and needs should be treated with respect so that you can find the best solution for everyone with equal power in that decision-making.
Consensual intimacy: Intimacy is not only something we have with sexual partners; it involves any activity you would do with another person that makes both parties feel more connected. Intimacy should always come from a place of respect and care. This means frequently checking in with each other to make sure that everyone is happy, comfortable, and safe.
Boundaries: Everyone has different boundaries. You can only create your own boundaries, but the people who love and respect you should not violate them. Boundaries can change and that is normal. For example, one day you may enjoy holding hands with your partner, and in another moment that may be too much for you. No one should be offended by your needs changing, and we owe our significant others the same.
Community: Maintaining your own community of friends, family, and other connections is important even when you are invested in a partnership. We all deserve to have a system of social support from others, so don’t deny yourself or your significant other connections with people outside your relationship.
For more tips on healthy relationships, check out these resources:
About Between Us and the author
Between Us is a grant-funded program from the Minnesota Department of Health that creates access to confidential reproductive healthcare for youth and young adults who receive their care at Hennepin Healthcare. Teens have the right to confidentiality for certain kinds of care under Minnesota’s Minor Consent Law. Between Us works to transform primary care into a more teen-friendly environment, welcoming teens and their parents, while also providing confidential care when needed.
Augusta Groeschel-Johnson, MPH is a former Between Us intern.