Just like humans are born with the right to be free, equal and safe, teens need to know they have rights within their romantic relationships and friendships. Healthy relationships are not a given, and as a school based therapist, I have become familiar with many examples of unhealthy – and even unsafe – relationships. Many relationships are plagued with jealousy, power, control, and manipulation.
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Healthy Teen Relationships
Teenagers need supportive adults to help them learn about what a healthy relationship does and does not look like, and a conversation about this with an adult they trust can offer an alternative perspective from what they see on the internet and other forms of media.
One way to start a conversation about relationship rights is to ask the young person about what human rights are. You and the young person could even take a look at the Declaration of Human Rights put out by the United Nations. You could ask them what their thoughts are about education and health care, and whether or not they think those should be human rights. From this understanding of what human rights are, the conversation can easily shift to what rights in relationships should be.
Basic Human Rights for Self-Development is one resource that emphasizes that people in relationships have
- “the right to choose how to spend my time”
- “the right to not be responsible for the feelings of another”
- “the right to make honest mistakes and admit those mistakes without being humiliated”
- “the right to grow as a person and accept new challenges”
Which of these rights would the young person prioritize on a wish list for a relationship? Are there any rights they realize they are not being given in a current relationship?
Supporting young people in navigating relationships can help them understand their own worth as people while also helping them figure out what their own ideas and values about relationships are. Adolescence is a time of growth and self-discovery, and learning about what healthy and fulfilling relationships are about in high school can lay the foundation for safe relationships for a lifetime.
Author: Emily Johnson, MSW LICSW, School-Based Mental Health Supervisor