Prepare Your Kids

As kids grow, their relationship circle grows too. It's never too early to start teaching kids about healthy relationships - between men and women, boys and girls, parents, relatives, friends, peers, teachers, etc. Here are a few pointers:

Be a good role model

Remember that parents set the tone for family relationships and that children learn by watching.

  • Sharing in family responsibilities is an important way for fathers and mothers to demonstrate equal relationships between men and women.
  • Examine how you approach conflict. Do you use violence to settle arguments? When you're angry, do you yell or use physical force? When parents resolve disagreements with one another and others in positive ways, they provide excellent role models for their children.

Be proactive

Work with your kids to teach them to respect others and to behave in a socially appropriate manner. Take advantage of "teachable" moments.

  • Monitor interactions between siblings and between your kids and their friends. Teach your kids how to resolve conflict and express anger or frustration in an appropriate, non-violent way.
  • Talk openly with your kids about the characteristics of healthy, equal relationships between men and women, boys and girls.
  • As your kids approach the challenges of dating, talk about the kinds of relationships you want for them: "I want you to have a boyfriend/girlfriend who respects you."
  • Initiate discussions with your kids by asking them questions: "What would your ideal relationship be like?" "What do you look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend?" "What comes to mind when you think of real love?" "What comes to mind when you think of abuse?"

Be aware of outside influences

Exposure to media violence can have a de-sensitizing effect on children. Similarly, exposure to negative attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls can make kids think abuse is normal and acceptable. It is important that you be aware of these influences and take steps to help your kids understand what is and is not acceptable.

  • Parental advisories for music, movies, TV, video and computer games can help you choose age-appropriate programming.
  • Participating in your child's entertainment media choices gives you an opportunity to talk about the things you experience together.
  • Encourage your children to think critically about what they are witnessing.
  • Actively question your kids when you witness demeaning stereotypes, degrading jokes and other messages that condone negative attitudes towards women and girls. Ask girls how those comments and actions make them feel. Ask boys how they'd feel if such actions and attitudes were directed towards them or towards their mothers, sisters or female friends.

Be open and accessible

Ensure your kids know they can talk openly and safely with you about relationship issues.

  • When they approach you, take the time to listen and respond. Show them that you trust them, believe in them and respect them.
  • Don't worry if you can't answer all of their questions right away. Take the time to find the right answers and continue the discussion.

Be age-appropriate

Teaching your children about healthy relationships requires a gentle, continuous flow of information that is appropriate to their stage of development. There are many resources available to help you talk to your kids about these issues.

Keep the conversation going

Talk about healthy relationships whenever the opportunity arises.

  • Share stories and lessons learned from your parents or family members about healthy relationships.
  • Talk about the lessons you learned from a mistake you made.
  • The more talk about healthy relationships, the more comfortable your kids will be in talking.

Build confidence

No parents want to see their children hurt, abused or manipulated. And no parents want their children to hurt others. Teaching your kids about healthy relationships is one of the best ways to protect them when you are not there.

  • Let them know they can talk to you about anything.
  • Help them recognize when they are being mistreated.
  • Teach them strategies to avoid mistreatment. For example, ask your son how he would respond if his friends encouraged him to be controlling and disrespectful to girls. Or ask your daughter what she would do if she were being pressured to engage in sexual activity.

Set boundaries

Help your kids understand their own boundaries and how to assert them. This is also an important step in understanding and respecting other people's boundaries.

  • Help them understand the principle of consent: a voluntary, sober, wanted, informed, mutual, honest and active verbal agreement.
  • Make sure they understand that words or conduct can express a lack of agreement and that consent cannot be coerced, is never implied and cannot be assumed, even in an intimate relationship.

Pay attention

When both you and your kids are able to recognize the signs of a destructive relationship, you can tackle the problem together.

  • Be on the lookout for warning signs. If your teen is dating someone, get to know that person. Pay attention to the couple's interactions and watch for controlling behaviour, criticism and jealousy.

Ask your teen about the relationship and listen without judging. Let your teen know you are there to help.

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