Healthy versus unhealthy relationships

Giving adolescents the tools to evaluate relationship patterns promotes health for a lifetime.

The Healthy Behavior continuum is a tool offered by Michigan State University Extension Be SAFE initiative and curriculum. Healthy Behavior continuum helps students step out of their own shoes to examine the way others are treated, or the way they are treated outside of individual situations. Students identify given behaviors and patterns of behavior within a relationship along a continuum of healthy and unhealthy to identify patterns. When allowed the chance to create a visual standard of healthy behavior, students have a tool to compare friendships and intimate relationships. They also have the opportunity for self-reflection regarding their own treatment of others.

This approach may be useful to parents and adults working with young people bringing down defensiveness by removing names. Difficult conversations can be made more productive and result in more responsiveness.

For example: A boyfriend is pressuring a girlfriend to limit her time with her friends – rather than argue about what you see of the situation, begin a discussion about how healthy or unhealthy the young person sees the situation. This will initiate dialogue about how often it happens and what the purpose is, and allow the young person to decide whether it should continue, or not.

Another example would be disagreements that do not clearly fall into healthy and unhealthy categories. Healthy disagreements are displayed when listening for understanding and trying to compromise occurs. Unhealthy disagreements display uncontrollable anger, making fun of someone’s ideas, screaming or belittling someone.

Relationships in our lives with friends, peers, dating and romantic partners, siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors and many others are vital to our social and emotional health. No relationship is perfect all the time. Even the healthiest of relationships have hard moments that we must navigate. Discussing the relationship continuum can allow us to respond to difficult situations from a clearer, more centered state of mind.

Safe Dates curriculum looks into these issues deeper. Safe Dates is 10 lessons that focus on teens learning methods to develop healthy dating relationships through positive communication, anger management and conflict resolution.

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