Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

With the #MeToo movement all over social media and Valentine’s Day coming up, it is a good opportunity to have a discussion with your teen about relationships. February is also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Today’s guest post comes from youth.gov and covers the characteristics healthy and unhealthy relationships. It is part of their Dating Violence Prevention pages.

Respect for both oneself and others is a key characteristic of healthy relationships. In contrast, in unhealthy relationships, one partner tries to exert control and power over the other physically, sexually, and/or emotionally.

Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships share certain characteristics that teens should be taught to expect. They include:

  • Mutual Respect: Respect means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries.
  • Trust: Partners should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Honesty: Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship.
  • Compromise: In a dating relationship, each partner does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take.
  • Individuality: Neither partner should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on a partner’s. Each should continue seeing his or her friends and doing the things he/she loves. Each should be supportive of his/her partner wanting to pursue new hobbies or make new friends.
  • Good Communication: Each partner should speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. If one person needs to sort out his or her feelings first, the other partner should respect those wishes and wait until he or she is ready to talk.
  • Anger Control: We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or talking it out.
  • Fighting Fair: Everyone argues at some point, but those who are fair, stick to the subject, and avoid insults are more likely to come up with a possible solution. Partners should take a short break away from each other if the discussion gets too heated.
  • Problem Solving: Dating partners can learn to solve problems and identify new solutions by breaking a problem into small parts or by talking through the situation.
  • Understanding: Each partner should take time to understand what the other might be feeling.
  • Self-confidence: When dating partners have confidence in themselves, it can help their relationships with others. It shows that they are calm and comfortable enough to allow others to express their opinions without forcing their own opinions on them.
  • Being a Role Model: By embodying what respect means, partners can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way.
  • Healthy Sexual Relationship: Dating partners engage in a sexual relationship that both are comfortable with, and neither partner feels pressured or forced to engage in sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone or without consent.

Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are marked by characteristics such as disrespect and control. It is important for youth to be able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. Some characteristics of unhealthy relationships include:

  • Control: One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. He or she is unreasonably jealous, and/or tries to isolate the other partner from his or her friends and family.
  • Hostility: One dating partner picks a fight with or antagonizes the other dating partner. This may lead to one dating partner changing his or her behavior in order to avoid upsetting the other.
  • Dishonesty: One dating partner lies to or keeps information from the other. One dating partner steals from the other.
  • Disrespect: One dating partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other partner or destroys something that belongs to the partner.
  • Dependence: One dating partner feels that he or she “cannot live without” the other. He or she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
  • Intimidation: One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid. One dating partner may attempt to keep his or her partner from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
  • Physical Violence: One partner uses force to get his or her way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).
  • Sexual Violence: One dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against his or her will or without consent.

It is important to educate youth about the value of respect and the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships before they start to date. Youth may not be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships, and may not know how to break up in an appropriate way when necessary. Maintaining open lines of communication may help them form healthy relationships and recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, thus preventing the violence before it starts.

How to Make Family Dinners Happen More Often

You’ve probably seen news stories sharing the benefits of family dinners. Maybe you’ve even made a New Year’s resolution to eat more dinners together. Perhaps you’d like to eat more family dinners, but don’t feel like you have the time to make it happen.

The Family Dinner Project was created to help families take advantage of what research has shown and what parents have long known: sharing a meal as a family helps everyone’s health, mind, and spirit. Children whose families regularly eat together have higher grade-point averages, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and depression.

The Family Dinner Project provides lots of resources to help you get started, including:

  • Recipes that fit in your busy schedule
  • Ways to add some fun to dinner preparation and at the table
  • Conversation starters and questions to get your family talking
  • Links to other resources for food, fun, and conversation
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to help you make it happen

Researchers have found that families that eat dinner together five nights per week get the greatest benefits, but even adding one more meal per week together can help. Your family dinner doesn’t have to be dinner either—if a Saturday lunch together after a busy morning out or a Sunday brunch works for your family, it can still work as a “family dinner.”

Head to The Family Dinner Project to start planning how you can get your family together around the table more often.

 

13 Necessary Next Steps for Parents After an Autism Diagnosis

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), about 1 in 68 children has been identified as being autistic, with boys being approximately 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. The latter detail is still being debated, as autism diagnosis criteria were developed primarily with data from boys, autism presents differently in girls, and girls may be better at masking their difficulties in order to fit in with their peers; all of which may mean that the occurrence of autism is even higher.

The increased diagnosis of autism means that many families are struggling to understand and come to terms with what this means for their child and their child’s future. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism published an article earlier this year on 13 next steps for parents after and autism diagnosis. They are:

  1. Give yourself time to adjust.
  2. Give the people around you time to adjust, and keep them in the loop.
  3. Give yourself time to process information critically.
  4. Give yourself time to learn which organizations and people to trust.
  5. Give yourself time to figure out what autism means for your child.
  6. Give yourself time to figure out what communication looks like for your child.
  7. Give yourself time to figure out which supports, schools, therapies, and environments will help your child succeed.
  8. Give yourself the space to be flexible about needs, and pick your battles.
  9. Give yourself time to find autistic role models for your child.
  10. Give yourself time to think about shared traits.
  11. Give your child space to grow and change.
  12. Give yourself time to figure out what your child really enjoys.
  13. Give yourself time to plan for your child’s future without you.

An autism diagnosis can be a relief that the challenges you and your child have been facing have an explanation. It can also bring worry and concern for your child’s future. Be sure to read the full article for details and resources linked to each of the above points. There is a growing community of autistic teenagers and adults online sharing their experiences and speaking up for others on the spectrum that can also help a family understand what an autism diagnosis means (see the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag on Twitter).

Youth Concussions: What Parents Need to Know

In 2014, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law to provide new protections for high school athletes regarding concussions. A recent NPR Illinois story indicates that while reporting of student concussions has increased in recent years, not every Illinois high school has the resources to fully implement the law.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging the brain cells. This short video explains concussions and how to treat them.

Recognizing a Concussion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that parents may observe the following signs in their children that can indicate a concussion:

  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.

In addition, the CDC says that children and teens who have suffered a concussion may report the following symptoms:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.”

If you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, take them to a doctor for evaluation. Note that a concussion can occur from any blow to the head, not just those from youth sports, so be aware of the possibility of a concussion occurring even on the playground or at home.

Resources on Concussions

The CDC has numerous resources on concussions for parents, including:

Photo © 2006 by Jamie Williams under Creative Commons license.