This article addresses the following:
- Forming and maintaining online and in-person relationships
- Creating and enforcing boundaries
- How to communicate effectively
- How to handle cyberbullying and online harassment
- Addressing mental health issues in relationships
Healthy relationships with family members and the community at large can enhance the quality of life of a teenager and make them feel worthy and confident in their actions. Healthy relationships don’t happen automatically for most teenagers; they take time and active effort to build and keep them healthy. So, how can you make this happen as a parent or guardian? Key Healthcare provides treatment for teen relationship problems, and here shares how parents can help their teens maintain healthy relationships online and in person.
Understanding Healthy Relationships
During adolescence, young people learn to form safe and healthy relationships with family, friends, teachers, caregivers, or even romantic partners. It’s, therefore, common to watch them try different roles and identities, eventually contributing to their identity formation. Although peers play a crucial role in identity formation during teen years, relationships with parents and caregivers are the building blocks for other relationships teens will form.
What are Healthy Relationships?
A healthy relationship is one where a teen has the space to feel safe and express respect for themselves and others. Honest relationships are fueled by trust, communication, mutual respect, safety, consent, support, and acceptance. Parents can also encourage healthy relationships by being understanding and calm during arguments.
On the contrary, unhealthy relationships are characterized by a power imbalance and lack of proper communication. Lack of mutual trust, honesty, and the absence of consent between parents and teens is common, and both parties may have difficulty controlling their anger.
What are the Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship?
Some ways to identify a healthy relationship between your teenager and family, friends, and the community, look out for these characteristics:
Parents often feel that their children need to respect them but to create a healthy relationship with teens, respect needs to be reciprocal. Your teen must know that their opinions, needs, rights, and feelings matter. The best way to show respect to your child is to listen to their needs and let them know they are heard. It’s also important to acknowledge their individuality, even if it differs from yours, to let them know that you respect who they are.
You are vulnerable with each other
Vulnerability does not just apply to romantic relationships but also to your relationship with your teen. You need to share what’s going on with you and what you need and expect from your teen and create a space where they feel safe enough to communicate the same.
Trust is crucial in healthy relationships. While adolescents tend to make many decisions that are not well thought through, it’s important to trust them, provided the necessary guidance is provided.
Communicating effectively with your teenager without banging doors and shouting at each other, even when you don’t quite agree, indicates a healthy relationship. Communication between parents and teenagers should be honest and open to avoid miscommunication is important.
It’s common to see teens lose their anger, especially when they feel misunderstood or not respected. As a parent, dealing with a difficult young person who doesn’t seem to want to listen can also be frustrating. Finding a way for both parties to talk and agree without losing your anger is an indicator of a healthy relationship. There are different ways to anger management for teens, including taking a deep breath, talking it out, and even counting it out.
Why are Healthy Relationships Important?
Teens in healthy relationships with their parents, peers, caregivers, and teachers are more likely to feel happier and more satisfied with the quality of their lives. They are also less likely to suffer from physical and mental health issues like personality disorders. Healthy relationships can:
- Boost confidence
- Increase your teen’s sense of self-worth and belonging
- Provide space for better healing physically, mentally, or emotionally
- Set a tone for overall healthier behaviors and lifestyle
- Encourage personal growth by providing the necessary support to grow
- Decrease stress which leads to a longer life
How to Identify Unhealthy Relationships
Unhealthy relationships are likely to harm your teenager’s happiness, health, and overall well-being. It’s, therefore, crucial to help your teen identify the characteristics so they can know how to mend the relationships or seek professional help. Some relationships can be toxic and easy to pick out, while others are subtle and more difficult to recognize. The characteristics to look out for include:
- Control- One party wants to make all decisions or tell the other what to do, wear or interact with and tries to isolate the other party from friends and family.
- Dishonesty- Parties in an unhealthy relationship tend to lie or withhold information from each other.
- Disrespect– Not respecting one another’s views and decisions or constantly making fun of their opinions or interests is a common sign of unhealthy relationships.
- Dependence– When your teen feels like they can’t live without a friend, caregiver, or even you as a parent, the relationship might need to be addressed.
- Hostility- While teens tend to be hostile, especially towards authority, always picking fights and antagonizing the other party might reveal a bigger problem.
Maintaining Healthy Relationships In-Person
During adolescence, teens are forming who they will be, learning how they will act, and designing the life they want. Positive relationships with adults and peers are crucial to physical, emotional, and mental health. The benefits also extend to lower rates of anxiety, improved cognitive functions, better, and more empathy toward others. In persons, relationships can also help with coping with stress healthily.
On the downside, these relationships can promote negative peer pressure, encouraging poor behaviour. It can also lead to a loss of individuality, especially among younger teens who cannot tolerate dissimilarity in one another.
Learning how to build healthy relationships in person is essential and can be a life-saving skill as they go into adulthood.
How to Build Healthy Relationships In-Person?
Adolescents can struggle to develop respectful, positive relationships as they are unsure how to proceed. Here are a few helpful pointers for the teen:
- Help them to know themselves first and contact their emotions. That’s the only way you can form authentic relationships.
- Encourage them to put in the work required to build their friendships. Healthy relationships are found not built, so be willing and committed to accommodating others’ needs, views, and opinions.
- Ask teens to listen and listen some more to understand the other person. Relationships with adults and teens cannot be free of disagreements, and that’s okay. What matters is how you resolve them.
- Help them to establish boundaries- Boundaries are important as they let others know what you appreciate and don’t want in the relationship.
Maintaining Healthy Relationships Online
Online friendships and relationships share some benefits with in-person relationships. In this era of internet learning and meetings, teens need to form great, healthy relationships online as it can help with their mental health.
What are the Pros and Cons of Online Relationships?
Online relationships can comfort teens who struggle to get social support in real life with the support they need. Different studies also found that certain social media interactions and activity reduced mortality. Positive social interactions on the internet also improve teens’ sense of belonging and self-disclosure, especially teens who struggle to make friends in person.
On the other hand, online relationships could lead to teenage internet addiction. It also exposes teens to cyberbullying and being taken advantage of by strangers.
How to Build Healthy Relationships Online?
Although online relationships are beneficial, it can be hard to navigate them. When building and maintaining healthy relationships online, here’s what the adolescent needs to remember:
- Misunderstanding happens- it’s easy to put online relationships on a pedestal but remember they are not immune to misunderstandings, just like in person.
- Be respectful of others’ views, opinions, and boundaries- having different views and opinions is okay, as we are different people. Even when we don’t agree, it’s crucial to respect them.
- Consider the effect your words might have on the other person- it’s easy to say anything when behind a screen, but we want to be respectful and considerate of the effects of our words on other people.
- Think about others’ intentions- not everyone has intentions as pure as we would like to. Ensure you take things slow and try to learn their intentions.
How to Deal with Online Harassment and Cyberbullying in a Relationship?
Cyberbullying is just as harmful as other forms of bullying, if not worse. It can be harder to get away from and reach the person on the other end to take action. If a teenager is getting bullied on social media, here are a few things they can take to stop the bullying:
- Always keep your details private, including your school’s name, home address, and phone number.
- Change your privacy settings on all social media accounts to restrict access by the bully.
- Delete, unfriend, and block any accounts harassing you, including social media accounts, email addresses, and phone numbers.
- Save the evidence, including any harassing texts and emails, to use as evidence when reporting the bully.
- Report online abuse where it happens, for instance, on Snapchat, Instagram, or WhatsApp.
- Talk to an adult you trust. You can talk to your parents, teacher, counselor, or anyone supportive. Adults can help, and it provides additional security as you have someone looking out for you.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Online Relationships?
Boundaries are as important for an online relationship as they are in real life, but it’s not easy for teenagers to create clear-cut boundaries in their online lives. The most important reason to set boundaries online is for your safety and protection, so here is how to set boundaries:
- Allow yourself to set boundaries– We often don’t think we have the right to. Give yourself permission to say no and set boundaries to protect yourself. You don’t have to accept everyone who wants to befriend you.
- Take things as slowly as possible– Internet interactions can be tricky to navigate, so it’s important to know the person on the other end. It takes approximately six to nine months to see someone’s character and personality.
- Set boundaries around time– The internet is like a black hole, and it’s easy to get lost in scrolling if you allow yourself. The internet also has a sense of urgency, making us feel like we need to reply to comments immediately and always stay plugged in to avoid missing out on the latest news. Remember, you can block out a part of your day to yourself.
- Be open about your feelings- People don’t always realize they are crossing your boundaries. It’s important to communicate when someone violates your boundaries.
Building Positive Communication Habits
A crucial aspect of every healthy relationship is communication. To help your teen communicate better, here are a few guidelines you can teach them to follow:
- Listen more, talk less. Everyone wants to know they are being heard, so always listen to what the other person is saying before giving a response.
- Ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings. If you don’t understand something that’s been said, ask for clarification to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions.
- Always process your feelings first, and then you can talk about the issue. Take a brisk walk or listen to music to ensure a calm attitude while talking.
- Pay attention to your body language, which can send the wrong message. For instance, keeping your hands crossed gives the impression that you are inaccessible.
- Maintain a cheerful outlook in your relationships as it reflects how you communicate. Smiling and conveying an upbeat demeanor make you approachable and affect your speech.
Building Trust in Relationships
Trust is an important aspect of relationships. Our capacity to trust the people in our lives determines the intensity with which we experience relationships. So how can you build trust in relationships:
- Practice being vulnerable and acknowledging your feelings – If you are feeling particularly insecure or you need assurance from parents, friends, or caregivers, ask for it. Tell people how they make you feel, and be open to hearing how you make them feel. Being open to discussing hopes, fears, and dreams can help build trust.
- Assume the best in people – Giving others the benefit of the doubt is important in building trust. Don’t immediately assume that someone is out to get you; remember that it’s okay to question their intentions.
- Acknowledge how past friendships/relationships have hurt you– The first step to building trust is to acknowledge where the mistrust might stem from, so beware of unresolved issues from the past.
- Listen to the other person’s side of the story– Sometimes, when friends or family disappoint us, it’s easy to cut them off or throw the trust out of the window. Lend a listening ear and try to understand them before throwing it all away.
- Be honest and communicate– Communication is everything in any relationship dynamic. Don’t shy away from honestly talking about your feelings.
Managing Conflict in Relationships
Conflict is inevitable, even in healthy relationships. However, knowing how to manage conflict is important to maintain a respectful, healthy relationship. Here are some common tips to help teens resolve conflict:
- Listening to understand
- Communicating your feelings with the other party without placing any blame
- Stepping back to think and process
- Understanding the goals of the conversation
- Seeking common ground for both parties
- Acknowledging your shortcomings or contribution to the problem
- Understanding the other’s point of view
Challenges in Maintaining Healthy Relationships
During adolescence, teens learn to form healthy, respectful, and safe relationships with caregivers, friends, parents, and romantic partners. Some challenges that may arise in forming and maintaining these relationships include:
- Lack of clear boundaries
- Poor communication
- Lack of trust in relationships
- Dealing with breakups
Addressing Mental Health Issues in Relationships
The teenage years are when many teen mental health problems kick in, and teens tend to turn to their friends and partners for support. So, how can teens support a close relationship with someone struggling with their mental health?
- Validate their feelings. Always remember that people want to feel heard, especially when struggling with emotions.
- Ask how you can help, as it shows you care. You might be surprised by the person’s needs; if they don’t know, it encourages them to think.
- Be understanding. When your partner or friend struggles with mental health, don’t expect them to hang out as usual or go out every time, but don’t stop asking.
- Research different support tactics as they may differ with the conditions.
Why Self-Care is Important for Healthy Relationships for Teens
As a parent or mentor to someone struggling with their mental health, you must take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so eating well, exercising, and maintaining personal interests are important. Self-care may include joining a support group or seeing a Key Healthcare mental health professional.
A part of self-care is also not doing the following:
- Being available 24/7 for them
- Putting yourself in danger to watch over them
- Feeling guilty if things are not going well
Adolescence is a time to prepare for future relationships by learning healthy relationship skills. It’s, therefore, important for teens to learn how to build and manage healthy relationships online and in person and communicate, resolve conflict, and set boundaries in relationships. It’s also important for parents to provide the necessary support for teens as it sets the foundation for healthy relationships. Actively listening to them and observing their behaviors can help detect common issues they may have in relationships, such as bullying. Finally, help them understand that setting clear boundaries is good for them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is setting boundaries important for healthy relationships for teens?
Setting boundaries creates physical and emotional safety that’s critical for the development of healthy relationships.
What are some common online safety concerns for teens in relationships?
Some dangers include cyberbullying, invasion of privacy, identity theft, and stalking.
How can teens use social media to strengthen their relationships?
Social media plays a critical role in connecting teens to new friends and allowing them to learn more about their friends. It’s also easy to connect with friends when you cannot leave the house.
How can teens address power imbalances in a relationship?
Changing power dynamics in teen relationships requires vulnerability, trust, and open, honest, and respectful communication. It’s also important to focus on how each party contributes to the power imbalance.
What are some common mental health issues that can affect relationships for teens?
How can self-care improve relationships for teens?
Self-care is important in forming healthy relationships as it teaches teens how to respect and take care of themselves and strengthen their independence which can prevent abusive relationships.
What are some examples of relationship goals for teens?
Relationship goals for teens should be centered around honesty, communication, and trust. A healthy relationship should also allow teens to feel heard.
What are some signs that a relationship may be becoming abusive?
Some signs of an abusive relationship include extreme jealousy, setting unrealistic expectations, controlling behavior, isolation from family and other friends, and verbal abuse.
Is it possible to maintain a long-distance relationship as a teen?
Maintaining long-distance relationships is possible, but it’s important to understand that not all will last forever.