Helping Children Build Healthy Relationships

Helping today’s children build healthy relationships in their adult life

As parents or guardians we need to sow the seeds of healthy relationships in our kids from their childhood, because studies have shown that aspects of domestic violence can appear long be- fore they get into a relationship. We can raise sons who are strong, tough and powerful, but who recognize that those qualitties are never expressed through violence, abuse or maltreatment of others. You can also raise daughters who are strong, tough and powerful and who are confident that they should be treated in respectful ways that never include violence, abuse or maltreatment. So it is critical to help our kids learn early what constitutes healthy versus unhealthy relationships.

A healthy relationship has open and honest communication and an even playing field on which partners share power and control over decisions.

Teach Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness 

One of the best skills parents can teach their pre-teens is learning to state their feelings, opininons, desires and reactions clearly. To do this, they need to make their feelings know. Let them know that they shouldn’t resort to name-calling, blaming or insulting the other person. If things cannot be settled, encourage them to always take a break and cool down.


It can’t happen to my kids.
Most abusers are bums or crazy people. Jealousy, possessiveness is “romantic”.

Teach Anger Control

It’s not realistic for everyone to get along all the time. Help your kids recognize their personal warning signs for anger. How do they physically feel when they get angry? Do they have clenched fists, gritted teeth, a red face, tensed arms and shoul- ders? Teach them to gain valuable time to calm down through such techniques as counting backwards from ten to one; deep breathing; visualizing a peaceful scene or happy memory, reassuring them- selves that they are in control; or if all else fails, walking away and calming down.

An unhealthy relationship has an imbal- ance in which one partner tries to excercise control and power over the other through threats, emotional abuse and physical abuse.

Teach Problem Solving

 If your son or daughter has been con- fronted with a tough issue, have them determine what exactly happened and what may have caused the situation. Then, ask them to think of several different ways in which it could have been resolved. This is a skill best taught through examples, especially if you use ones that are close to your child, such as experiences of siblings or friends.

Healthy relationships…

are formed through fairness, trust, respect, support, honesty, responsibility, communication, shared freedom, equality, and non-violence.

Hands are for holding

Teach Negotiation

 Help your children understand that com- promising and turn taking are positive attitudes that help them in relationships. Also help them understand that violence, threats and insults have no place in respectful negotiation. Teach your children to negotiate in several steps. First acknowledge the situation, state each person’s point of view and discuss options that allow both people to win or by taking turns, get their way.




This material was adapted from the publication titled Teen Dating Violence: Information and Resources (June 2004) by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence with additional information from