Relationship Advice for Tweens


So today an article I wrote for JumpMag was published. JumpMag is an inspirational online magazine for girls. No lipgloss or JustinBieber to be found.

The article I wrote was about good relationships. Although written for tweens, I personally think the 5ideas hold true for all relationships of any age so I am also reproducing the advice below:

Relationships are hard at any age.

Remember relationships isn’t just about having a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but it’s about how you get on with your parents, your friends and other people important to you.

There are certain basic ideas that are important to developing good relationships, you master these and life suddenly becomes a lot less stressful!

I have some ideas that may help you have better relationships with the people you care about

Communication

Communication is the most important aspect of any relationship. Sharing things with people in your life is important. We do this mostly by speaking and listening. It is important to share how you feel about things and to listen and try to understand how others feel about things (this is called empathy).

How good are you at both talking AND listening? If you favour doing only one of them in a relationship then this isn’t as balanced as it could be- you probably need to work on doing both and so should the other person.

Also sometimes people might say something but their body language (how someone uses their body or their facial expression) maybe saying something different. Take some time to consider what is your body language saying when you talk? What is their body language saying? Do you make eye contact when you talk?

A key to successful communication is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements- eg. “I feel sad when you call me silly” is better than “You calling me silly makes me sad” because the second one can put the person on the defensive straight away and the conversation can go badly after that.

Negotiation and Consent.

Negotiation means developing an agreement together and consent basically means agreeing to something.
Think about the last time you agreed to something- was it willingly (eg. let’s go to the cinema) or unwillingly (cleaning your bedroom so you could get your pocket money). Did you negotiate to do those things?
Think about why you agreed to do those activities and what the benefits and costs were to you. In the first example, the benefits were that you had fun and got to see a film. Was there a cost to you? Not really, unless you had to pay for your ticket. In this situation, you probably willingly and happily consented to the plan.

In the second example, there were some benefits such as a nice tidy bedroom and getting pocket money, but perhaps there were costs too. You had to stay in and perhaps missed seeing a friend. You might not have been quite so happy to consent to that.

Sometimes we have to consent to something, because it is expected of us, such as doing our chores. Other times it is acceptable to withhold consent. For instance, your friend might ask to borrow your iPod. You do not have to consent to this. The iPod belongs to you and you can decide if you want to lend it.

Or a friend might tell you to do something that you don’t want to do, such as be nasty to another person in your class.

In relationships consent is very important, a relationship where people are constantly forcing you to do things against your will is a negative one. Ask yourself why are they trying to make you do that.

Honesty

Lies and deceit often end up in heartache, it is always best to be truthful and honest, if you don’t feel you can be honest- ask yourself why.

Is it because you are worried about hurting the other person? If so consider ways of saying what you need to say so it is less hurtful. If it is because you are trying to protect yourself from hurt then consider what is going on within that relationship that is making you lie. Consider ways of strengthening the honesty in the relationship. Commit to being honest with them and ask them to be honest with you.

Trust

In order to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed with someone and to develop a close relationship with them, we need to be able to trust the people closest to us. Remember being open and honest with people helps them build up trust in you. If you can’t trust someone close to you- ask yourself why and consider what you might need to do to develop a trusting relationship. Discuss trust with the other person and what it means to both of you.

Respect

Do you respect yourself, or do people “walk all over you”, do you respect your friends? Your parents? Consider what respect means to you. Is it being clever? Popular? Pretty? Are these positive or negative things. How do people earn respect? Consider why it is important to be respectful in relationships. What might happen if you don’t have respect in a relationship? Remember Eleanor Roosevelt once said “remember no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

Start applying these 5 ideas to your life today and see what happens! We’d love to hear how you get on with them!

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International Woman’s Day- Teaching about Consent.


Happy International Women’s Day!

“Today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg shows his support for The Home Office’s Teenage Rape Prevention campaignlaunched on 5 March. He warns that rape is not just about violent attacks by strangers but also includes non-consensual sex within a relationship and highlights the need to get young people talking about the importance of consent.”

Taken from my Sex Education Forum Bulletin I just received via email- you can get it too by signing up here.

Consent can be a tricky thing to teach.  As well as covering the legal aspects of consent it is important to discuss notions of active consent and what abuse and coercion can look like. I really really love the way Scarleteen do this here (About navigating consent) and here (about body boundaries).

An interesting way to explore consent with young people is to discuss different scenarios with them with giving them traffic light cards (a red, amber, green card) and reading out a lengthy scenario and asking them to hold up the card as to whether the point in the story is Consenting (Green- good to go), Consensual grey area/ unsure (Amber) or Non-Consenting (Red -Stop).

The main scenario types you should explore are:

a) “Consent” under the influence of drink or drugs.

b) “Consent” under the influence of one partner’s coercion.

c) “Consent” due to previous sexual activities being consented to.

It can be very interesting to do this with the young people closing their eyes to remove peer pressured responses, and to compare the responses from the different genders. It can be tricky sometimes to come to a “consensus on consent” so allow plenty of time for discussion.

Also very interesting to use the Haven’s Where is your line? Campaign Video using the traffic light cards. (bewarned it is a hard hitting video so view it first to assess suitability for your class).

These are just some of the ways I like to explore consent with young people. I have many more ideas but I am supposed to be on maternity leave and no time to blog them all!!

If you have any more ideas for exploring consent with young people please do share them.

Happy Educating.