Thoughtful Parenting: Teaching youth about healthy relationships
January 1, 2017
In the sexual risk avoidance classes we teach, Selah staff members begin by walking students through a personal inventory. Because we know that healthy people know how to ask for what they need, we want students to understand how to be holistically healthy and understand the components of healthy relationships. We talk about what makes human beings simultaneously the same and different, so students can understand their own needs and the needs of others well enough to avoid the potential threat of co-dependent, abusive and other unhealthy relationships.
In the context of identifying personality types (and how those personalities may interact in relationships) and family dynamics, we also discuss a list simply titled "Am I Enough?" All the students relate to the long list of questions individuals ask themselves at different points in time: Am I smart enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I strong enough? Am I popular enough?
Most young people can fill in the blank with their own concern — am I … enough? —, andI believe most adults will relate to the question, as well. We all, at some point, wonder if we will have what it takes to survive, let alone thrive.
We then walk students through a brief series of suggestions that can help them affirm the many ways they are already capable and valuable and make a plan for areas in which they feel a lack.
As we enter a new year, facing its unknown possibilities and dangers, now may be a good time to review the list with your students and, perhaps, with yourself. Identifying where we feel vulnerable is the first step toward strengthening those areas. The next step can be the one we suggest to our students: brainstorming ways to increase internal and external resources.
You can increase internal resources by building healthy relationships, self-confidence and self-acceptance.
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Build self-confidence by participating in an extra-curricular activity you enjoy, doing something you do well or working on a hobby or activity you enjoy.
Build healthy relationships with a good friend who cares about you, your family and other caring adults, such as your life teacher, coach or youth group leader.
Build self-acceptance by reminding yourself of your three greatest strengths and three things that make you unique.
Ask your students, "Which of these are you doing, or can you start to do?" Encourage them to add their own ideas for ways to build self-respect. Brainstorm ideas for extra-curricular activities and healthy relationships, especially mentoring ones.
Perhaps this is a conversation you can have this week, arming your students with tools to begin the new year well-resourced. It is a new and as yet unnavigated year, but we each will have what it takes to thrive.
Here's to a healthy 2017, friends.
Melinda Clark is the CEO of Selah (selahsteamboat.com), a holistic reproductive health center by and for the community in Routt County. One of the programs she especially enjoys is teaching sexual risk avoidance classes for young people and helping them make their own plans to succeed at building healthy bodies, healthy futures and healthy relationships.