Checking in about relationships

Submitted by SAFE San Juans, from “How’s Your Relationship?” published by the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence

We envision a world where everyone experiences healthy, fun, and safe relationships. But how do we get there? By talking about relationships – with everyone! Conversations build expectations about how we’ll be treated by others and how we’ll treat them. Talking to our loved ones lets us in on what they’re going through. So let’s start talking! Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers. No one is too young or too old to think about what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.

Just ask a question or two, be genuinely curious and open-minded, and listen. It’s that simple! Ready to roll? Choose one of the sample questions to get started.

Young Kids (2 – 7):

What does being a good friend look like?

How do you feel when you are around your friends?

What happens when you don’t like what a friend is doing?

How do good friends treat each other?

Who can you talk to when you have a problem with a friend?

Relate what you are talking about to real-life experiences or movies the child has seen. Kids this age need clear examples to help them understand.

Older Kids (7 – 10):

What does being a boyfriend/girlfriend mean to you?

What does it mean to “like someone”?

How would you want a boyfriend/girlfriend to treat you?

What do you think is cool/cute about [insert name of pop star]?

Is there anything about a relationship that you would like to ask me?

Answer questions honestly and let kids know they can ask you anything. Kids this age want the truth, in age-appropriate doses.

Tweens (10 – 14):

What do you think about having a boyfriend / girlfriend?

How would you like to be treated?

What are things that you wouldn’t like?

Are any of your friends dating?

What does respect look like in a relationship?

Stay calm and be a good listener. Kids this age have strong feelings that they need help handling.

Older Teens (14 – 18):

Do any of your friends have a boyfriend / girlfriend?

We used to call it dating. What do you and your friends call it?

What kind of person would you like to be with?

What is fun about dating? What is difficult? What is scary?

How do you think people who are dating should treat each other?

Have this conversation in the car. Eye contact can make things more intense. Talking while you are driving can help teens feel more comfortable.

Adults (18+):

How’s your relationship?

Are you worried about any of your friends’ relationships?

What do you think healthy arguments look like?

What is working well in your relationship? What do you wish were different in your relationship?

Don’t wait until you’re worried about someone. Ask all your friends about their relationships. It’s a lot easier for friends to turn to you when things aren’t going well if chatting about relationships is something you already do.

Fun Activities for All Ages:

Alphabet Game! – Think of words that describe the kind of people you want to hang out with. Take turns going through the alphabet. Xtra fun! Zany!

Rated R? – Go see a movie with a friend and rate the relationships you see. Do you agree on the ratings? Movie relationships are always dramatic, but real-life relationships don’t have to be!

Coffee Date – Grab a celebrity magazine, go for coffee with a friend, and gossip about the celebrity relationships. Who do you think has a great relationship? An unhealthy one? It’s always fun to dish about celebrities. and it can make it easier to take the leap and

talk about your own relationship.

Feeling nervous about what might come up? Get through those awkward moments with these tips:

Don’t know the answer? “Honestly, I don’t know. Let me do some research and then we can talk more about it tomorrow.”

Conversation going nowhere? When you’re getting silence or one-word answers, it’s best to back off and try again a different day. Just asking the question lets people know you are someone they can turn to when they’re ready.

Totally freaked out by what you just heard? “I’m really glad you’re talking to me. I want to keep talking, but it would help me to have some time to think about all this. Can we check in again next week?”

Not feeling great about your own relationship? You don’t need to have it all figured out to support someone else. Check out www.SAFEsj.org for some resources and to get help.

It might feel awkward at first, and that’s okay! Keep the conversation open. Keep checking in.

Just think how much easier it will be to talk next time a friend’s relationship hits a bumpy patch, or even better, the first time a teen we know falls in love. On behalf of SAFE San Juans, you can do it!

The mission of SAFE San Juans is the prevention and elimination of domestic violence and sexual assault through victim services, education, community awareness, and culture and social change. Feeling unsafe? Call any of our 24-hour Crisis Lines: 378 – 2345 (San Juan), 468 – 4567 (Lopez), 376 – 1234 (Orcas). Visit www.SAFEsj.org for more information.