Healthy relationships don’t just happen. They take time and effort.
Why should we teach relationship education; does it matter?
Our lives are made up of relationships; connections between two or more people. Every human being has connections whether it is a parent and child, teacher and student, boss and employee, day care provider and child, husband and wife, or sister and brother. All daily interactions are based on relationships. The National Extension Research and Marriage Education Network (NERMEN) is designed to provide information on healthy relationships and marriage education efforts. Why do we need to educate about something so basic?
Michigan State University Extension stresses that human beings need a sense of belonging and individual worth. We seek out warm, sensitive and responsive connections for security from the moment we are born. Safe and secure environments built by positive relationships can help us thrive physically, benefit from learning experiences, and cooperate and get along with others. The National Association for the Education of Young Children promotes positive relationships among all children and adults as a way to encourage a sense of individual worth and belonging as part of a community while fostering the ability to contribute as a responsible community member.
Healthy relationships can be as simple as taking the time to know your neighbor to being a part of a large, blended extended family. Relationships range from intimate to casual but all relationships need several common elements in order to thrive.
- Care for self - NERMAN recognizes this attribute as not just physical, but also mental and emotional well-being. Taking care of your health needs includes getting adequate sleep, paying attention to nutrition and exercise, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, practicing positive thinking, and paying attention to stress and anger management.
- Care of others - Showing respect, understanding and investing time in someone other than you can assist in the development and maintenance of healthy relationships. Focus on your human connections, making time to nurture and share, and recognize and celebrate differences. This essential element focuses on the good in others.
- Choosing - Healthy relationships don’t happen by chance. They are a deliberate effort to be intentional about nurturing connections; focusing on strengths and finding ways to enhance and expand partnerships.
- Connections - Every additional relationship that you add to your support network will strengthen the others. Look for ways to connect in your community with like-minded people who share your interests. Explore resources that can support your individual and collective needs.
- Knowledge - Have discussions that teach you about your human connections; their likes and dislikes, needs and wants, and expectations that each of you have for the relationship. Actively seek to learn more.
- Sharing - Being able to confide in others who share your interests, goals and concerns can assist in sustaining a healthy relationship. This element requires a commitment to grow the relationship.
- Maintenance - Ups and downs in a relationship are normal. Healthy relationships take time and a deliberate management of traits that include an element of forgiveness when disagreements occur. Close relationships are worth an extra effort that can include recognizing your own short comings and knowing when to step back and take a “time out.”
Having responsive relationships that are warm and sensitive can help children and adults feel secure; a first step in healthy living. Environments that are built on positive relationships can provide the foundation for an overall healthy lifestyle.