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How to Talk About Healthy Relationships with Kids
Welcome to February: the month of Valentine’s Day and the season of love. You might be filling out valentines for the class party or baking heart-shaped cookies alongside your child, so it’s a great opportunity to launch a chat about healthy relationships. Here are a few talking points to keep the conversation positive and on track.
Mutual respect. Healthy relationships are built on respect. Talk about simple notions like valuing other people’s opinions, fairness and equality. Encourage your child to imagine himself or herself in someone else’s shoes. On the flip side, resolve to call out your child’s unacceptable words or actions immediately and urge him or her to find a better way to speak or behave.
Accountability. Talk about rules for behavior and consequences for breaking the rules. Emphasize the importance of apologizing when you step out of line, taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming others. Similarly, talk about how to speak up when someone has broken the rules and standing up for what you believe in.
Peer pressure. These days, peer pressure comes from all sides, not only in person but also through popular culture and social media. Talk about how some peer pressure can be good. After all, we might take up a sport or try out for a play because a friend encouraged it. But when peer pressure nudges us to act in a way we know isn’t right, or makes us feel bad about ourselves, it’s time to take action: set boundaries and seek out support.
Real-world examples. Kids absorb lessons better when they can relate them to concrete situations. Talk about friendship deal-breakers and ask “what if” questions. What would you do or not do for a friend? How could you set limits with a friend who was treating you badly? Role-play scenarios.
Continue these conversations over time. Important themes need to be repeated as children grow and move through various phases of development. So, set a goal to engage with your child every day. It might be in the car, at dinner, on a walk or at bedtime. These small moments of connection lay a foundation of trust and support that will be crucial as your child grows older and experiences situations they’d like to share with you.
Austin Family Magazine serves the greater Austin area with up-to-date information and ideas that promote smart parenting and healthy homes. Pick up the latest issue at any local HEB, Central Market, Whole Foods or visit austinfamily.com.
Sherida Mock is the editor of Austin Family Magazine.
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