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3 Ways to Teach Children About Healthy Relationships

3 Ways to Teach Children About Healthy Relationships

Juanito Vargas, Vice President of our Community Programs, Hotlines, Project SAFE and Anti-Trafficking Program uses the tips in our blog post to teach his children about healthy relationships.

By Kelly Coyne and Michelle Lawrence
September 15, 2017

As parents, we face many demands and challenges when raising children. We are responsible for teaching children everything from what kinds of foods to eat to proper hygiene. But it isn’t yet the norm to speak with children about what healthy relationships look like. Teaching children the differences between healthy and unhealthy behaviors early on can shape their future personal, work and community relationships. Many caregivers struggle to start the discussion. In this blog post, we provide some tips you can use in talking to children about healthy relationships, and how Safe Horizon’s #PutTheNailinIt campaign can help you start the conversation.

1. Keep Language Simple

Relationships are complex but can be simplified by explaining healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Remember that using adult terms can make relationships difficult for children to understand. Keep the language you use simple and use vocabulary that they already know. To describe healthy behaviors, you could say that someone is being nice by asking for permission, sharing their toys or showing they care. To describe an unhealthy relationship, you could say that someone is treating the other badly by being mean to them, making them feel bad or hurting them.

2. Discuss Real Situations

Use explicit examples of relationships that children already have to help show what you mean. These can be relationships with friends, classmates and/or family members. You can even use situations they have seen in movies and/or television. Talk about conflicts children have experienced and how they can handle anger, frustration and other feelings. If children are not taught how to deal with these feelings in a positive way early on, they can turn to violence. For example, you could say something like, “Remember when your schoolmate stole your toy? How did that make you feel?” These questions can lead to a discussion about healthy ways to manage anger.

3. Opening the Conversation

When children understand how to have healthy relationships, they develop a greater sense of empathy, which is key in preventing domestic violence. Initiating a conversation with children about healthy relationships may seem difficult for many adults, parents and caregivers, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s where #PutTheNailinIt comes in.

The #PutTheNailinIt campaign encourages people to paint their ring fingernail purple to symbolize their vow to end domestic violence. This simple gesture is an easy and unique way you can spark conversations with a child about what the meaning behind the nail is.

Use the phrases and examples you prepared earlier to show how the purple nail relates to healthy relationships. If you get stuck, you can simply say that the purple nail is your way of saying you won’t treat others badly. Then, encourage your child to take the vow, which will help spread awareness about healthy relationships.

Get started by taking the vow today.

  • Kelly Coyne

    Kelly Coyne is vice president of domestic violence shelters at Safe Horizon. She has previously coordinated a violence against women program, was a program coordinator in a domestic violence shelter, a trainer with the North Carolina School Health Training Center and is a Nationally Certified Trainer in the ASIST suicide intervention curriculum. Kelly received an MBA from Queens University, a MS in Higher Education Administration and a BA in Public health from Appalachian State University.

  • Michelle Lawrence

    Michelle M. Lawrence is the childcare center supervising coordinator for the domestic violence shelter administration program at Safe Horizon. She has worked with children and families impacted by domestic violence for her entire career. Michelle is responsible for enhancing, coordinating and centralizing the childcare programming, policies and services in the domestic violence shelters. She holds a BA in Human Services with a concentration in Child Welfare.