“Dating is definitely not always easy, but I’m loving the experience of meeting new people.”

“I’m not sure how serious I should be with one person right now, but I know that falling in love can feel really good.”

“I do admit, sometimes I struggle with things like setting boundaries about sex, resolving conflict, social media issues, and really trusting my partner. What do I do when these kind of issues come up?”

Being in a relationship can be an incredible time in your life! As a teenager, you’re likely experiencing and exploring feelings you’ve never felt before. These feelings are exciting, but at times can also feel overwhelming and confusing if you’re not sure how to handle certain things. Healthy Relationships Initiative is here to help teens in our community build happy, healthy, and safe relationships. The goal of the initiative is to help teenagers understand how to have relationships motivated by respect and trust. So, whether you’re in a happy, committed relationship, a relationship that seems a bit shaky, or just dating and exploring right now, we hope this toolkit will help you to reflect on yourself and on your relationship, connect with your committed or dating partner through deeper conversations and activities, and build up the tools you will need to have a successful relationship, now and/or in the future.

 

Reflect: Reflection Activities

You better check yourself!

Has anyone ever asked you to stop and “check yourself?” In other words, sometimes it’s helpful to stop and think about your own thoughts, feelings, and actions and how your behaviors affect others. Ultimately, that’s the key to building a successful relationship in general – with friends, family, and even a romantic partner. Learning how to interact with other people is definitely important, and the first step to building a successful relationship is understanding yourself! In fact, you are the only person you can control in a relationship of any kind. The Reflection Activities in this section of the Healthy Relationships Initiative Toolkit for Teens are designed to help you intentionally think through your views and attitudes that impact your relationship with your partner.

Connect: Conversation Starters

As easy as it might sound at times, having open, honest conversations with people we love and care about is easier said than done. Frankly, it can be difficult to even know where to start!

That’s why we’ve created a wide array of questions you can use as Conversation Starters when you’re looking to have deeper conversations with individuals that you have relationships with in your everyday life (e.g. parents, friends, family members, romantic partners, etc.). There are many ways you can use these Conversation Starters, such as setting aside a longer period of time to discuss them, or simply addressing each conversation one at a time at a pace that works best for you.

Before you begin, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Set aside a specific time to have your conversation so you won’t feel rushed. Your goal is to learn more about the other person, not simply complete a checklist of questions. Take your time, minimize distractions, and focus on understanding yourself and the other person!
  2. Try to have your conversation in a comfortable place for you and the other person. Some people prefer private areas, while others prefer public places, such as a coffee shop or local park. Remember, there is no “right place” to talk…you could even take a walk together. The more comfortable you both feel, the easier it will be to focus on the conversation at hand!
  3. Listening is going to be key. Once the other person has shared their thoughts on the Conversation Starter, try reflecting what they said back to them. For example, “What I just heard you say is             .” If you didn’t catch everything the first time, try again!
  4. Disagreements will most likely happen, so be open to them. It’s normal to disagree with others, and oftentimes, our differences bring us closer and keep the relationship interesting! If the other person says something you don’t agree with, try to learn more about why they think the way they do.
  5. Some of the Conversation Starters may address issues you’ve never thought about before, let alone had a conversation about. Use this opportunity to self-reflect as well as to learn more about the other person.
  6. Sometimes, having positive conversations with other people can be especially difficult for a variety of reasons. If you continue to have difficulty having an overall positive conversations with others, you may benefit from counseling, including individual, family, or couples counseling. To learn more about seeking counseling, please read Tip Sheet #7: When to Talk to a Counselor.
  7. Finally, kindness and respect can go a long way in having open, honest conversations with the people in our lives we care about. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, no matter what.

*Note: The questions in these Conversations Starters have been adapted from Just Engaged and loveisrespect.org)

 

Build: Tip Sheets for Making Your Relationship Stronger

Every relationship we experience, whether it be a dating relationship or any other kind of relationship, has its own unique set of challenges. What works for one person in a relationship may not work for another. Sometimes, as a teenager, it’s easy to compare yourself to friends and how they experience relationships. This can be helpful, but it’s also important to remember that what may work for them may not work for you. In this section, we offer some basic tips to help you build a stronger relationship. These Tip Sheets focus on important relationship skills that apply to a variety of relationship issues. If you find that you need individualized help in applying these tips to your own relationship, or if you are experiencing problems in your relationship that don’t seem to improve when you apply these tips, please read our Tip Sheet #7: When to Talk to a Counselor

Note: This Toolkit was developed by Joy Kelly.