Relationship skills, just like reading and math, are learned one step at a time. To have healthy relationships with themselves, their families, friends, and eventually their romantic partners, children need to start learning relationship skills at a young age. Parents and caregivers are important role models when it comes to healthy relationships. But you are not alone! Schools also have a part to play. Ophea (a not-for-profit organization that champions healthy, active living in schools and communities) and White Ribbon (the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls and to promote gender equity) have programs and resources for teachers, students, and parents to develop healthy relationship skills in children and youth.

How to start:
It’s important to encourage children to ask for help when things don’t feel respectful or safe. Both parents and teachers can help children and youth recognize the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships: honesty, trust, good communication, caring, respect, equality, and feeling safe, versus feeling pressure, control, humiliation, abuse, and violence. Foundations of healthy relationships can be taught at home and at school, and include:

  • Knowing and setting personal boundaries
  • Asking for permission before touching another person
  • Respecting the boundaries of others
  • Building emotional intelligence so that children and youth can become aware of their emotions and communicate a range of feelings in a non-violent manner.

Supports for schools & communities:
This past school year Ophea, a not-for-profit that champions healthy, active living in schools and communities, launched Campaign Messengers: Taking a Stand! This project trained over 100 students and teachers from across Ontario to lead activities related to the promotion of healthy relationships, consent, respect, and equality in their school communities. Funded by the Government of Ontario, this project empowers students to lead conversations on these important topics with their peers so that they can make informed decisions about their safety, health and well-being. The project will extend this fall to 40 new elementary schools through a free training event for teachers in October 2017. Campaign Messengers is delivered in partnership with White Ribbon, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, and Egale Canada.

Also look to White Ribbon, whose mission is to inspire men and boys to embrace the positive role they can play to promote healthy relationships and end violence against women and girls. Their male role modeling initiative It Starts with You. It Stays with Him. inspires men to promote healthy, equal relationships with the boys in their lives. The Draw the Line campaign encourages conversations about the topics of healthy relationships, consent, and sexual violence prevention. It empowers youth to play a positive role and promote consent and healthy relationships with their peers.

Together, we can help children and youth build crucial relationship skills and support their well-being.