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Dating Safe: Healthy Relationship Skills

Research shows that teens who are socially isolated may experience worse effects of dating violence and may have more trouble leaving abusive relationships.[1]
 
While we are maneuvering our new “normal” and adjusting to the impacts of COVID-19, we know that social connection and healthy relationships are more important than ever. This is why we focus on healthy relationships in the first session of the YWCA Dating Safe Program; as the development of healthy relationship skills can build a strong foundation for relationships in the future with not only intimate partners but with friends, family, peers, colleagues and ourselves. 

So, what are healthy relationships? 
 

Healthy Relationships: A relationship that positively impacts your life and increases your well-being.
  • This includes: Being yourself, honesty, good communication, respect, feeling safe, trust, equality, and support.[2]
  • Healthy relationships are built on two main foundations: 
    • Communication: Sharing thoughts, messages, or information, with others. 
    • Boundaries: Guidelines or limits that someone has for themselves about what feels safe and comfortable. It is important to communicate your boundaries in a relationship to ensure that your partner understands what is acceptable to you in a relationship and what is not. 

In contrast, what are unhealthy relationships? 
 

Unhealthy Relationships: A relationship that negatively impacts your life and decreases your well-being.
  • This includes: Physical abuse, control, humiliation, unpredictability, pressure.[3]
What should you do if you are in an unhealthy relationship? 
 
If you or anyone you know is in a relationship with unhealthy characteristics, you could be experiencing Dating Violence. If you are looking for support, there are a number of organizations and support lines that can help you, including:
  • Kids Help Phone
    ‘Immediate and caring support, information and, if necessary, referral to a local community or social service agency.’
    Website: https://kidshelpphone.ca/
    Phone: 1 (800) 668-6868
     
  • Youth Against Violence Line
    ‘The Youth Against Violence Line is a 24/7 anonymous and confidential line to talk to trained support workers. You can contact them about bullying, gang activity, harassment, intimidation, sexual exploitation, and many other issues. This service is also available in multiple languages.’
    Website: http://youthagainstviolenceline.com/how.html
    Phone: 1 (800) 680-4264
    Text: (604) 836-6381
    Email: info@youthagainstviolenceline.com
For a full list of supports and resources, please scroll to the bottom of this blog post. 

Why is it important to build healthy relationships as a teenager? 
 

Research shows that healthy development depends on healthy relationship’s - not only with intimate partners but with friends, family, peers, colleagues and ourselves. Our good and poor health habits develop in the early years of our life, so it is important to build healthy relationships at a young age. 
 
Below is some of the research that helped us determine the importance of starting our program focussing on healthy relationships and the skills needed to form positive long-lasting relationships:
  • Canada does not compare well to other countries in the quality of relationships experienced by its children. In a recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey, Canadian children, aged 11 to 15, reported the quality of their relationships with their parents and peers such that Canada ranked near the bottom; between 29th and 34th of 38 countries (Currie et al., 2012). This ranking is cause for concern as research has shown that healthy development depends on healthy relationships.[4]
  • Children’s good and poor health habits begin to develop in the early years of life. Through positive interactions and positive, deliberate learning opportunities, children in healthy families develop the self-regulation, social, and coping skills that enable them to develop in healthy ways.[5]
  • There is a strong link between involvement in bullying and significant health problems. Bullying is a disrespectful and destructive relationship for both parties. Both children who bully and those who are victimized experience elevated levels of physical and mental health problems; those who are involved in both bullying and victimization experience the highest rates of problems.[6]
  • During preteen and teen years, young people are learning the skills they need to form positive, healthy relationships[7]. Research shows that early intervention efforts are a “developmentally timed point of leverage for relationship change.”[8]

Additional Resources 
 

If you are experiencing or know someone experiencing dating violence, please visit the sites below for support: 
 
Kids Help Phone
‘Immediate and caring support, information and, if necessary, referral to a local community or social service agency.’
Phone: 1 (800) 668-6868
 
VictimLinkBC
‘24-hour confidential crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence and provides information and referral services to victims of crime.’ 
Phone: 1 (800) 563-0808
 
Youth Against Violence Line
‘The Youth Against Violence Line is a 24/7 anonymous and confidential line to talk to trained support workers. You can contact them about bullying, gang activity, harassment, intimidation, sexual exploitation, and many other issues. This service is also available in multiple languages.’ 
Phone: 1 (800) 680-4264
Text: (604) 836-6381
 
Inuit and First Nations Hope for Wellness Line
‘The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or you can use the chat box at the link below to connect with a counsellor online.’ 
Phone: 1 (855) 242-3310
 
‘QMUNITY: BC’s Queer Resource Center
Information, education, support groups, advocacy and referrals for lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and questioning youth, adults and older adults and allies.’
Phone: (604) 684-5307 

If you are interested in learning more about healthy relationships, please see a list of additional resources below: 

  • How to Talk with Teens about Healthy Relationships
  • Five Tips for Guiding Teens and Young Adults in Developing Healthy Romantic Relationships
  • How to Talk to Teens about Healthy Relationships and Dating Violence
  • Promoting Healthy Relationships
  • Healthy Development Depends on Healthy Relationships

Next Week:
 

Keep an eye on the blog next week to learn about gender stereotypes and how they affect our relationships.

References:

 [3] https://kidshelpphone.ca/get-info/healthy-relationships-vs-unhealthy-relationships

[4] https://www.prevnet.ca/sites/prevnet.ca/files/HealthyRelationshipsPaper.pdf

[5] https://www.prevnet.ca/sites/prevnet.ca/files/HealthyRelationshipsPaper.pdf

[6] https://www.prevnet.ca/sites/prevnet.ca/files/HealthyRelationshipsPaper.pdf

[7] Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet,” 2016 (Accessed January, 2018)

[8] Wekerle, Christine and David A. Wolfe. “Dating Violence in Mid-Adolescence: Theory, Significance and Emerging Prevention Initiatives,” Clinical Psychology Review, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 435–456, 1999. 

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