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Healthy Relationships

Qualities of Healthy Relationships

Respect is to treat others the way you want to be treated, be considerate, honour someone’s feelings and opinions.

Kindness is treating others the way you want to be treated, the golden rule.

Trust is being honest, matching our words and feelings with our thoughts and actions.

Good Communication is clear, honest, and respectful of others’ feelings. The ability to work through disagreements/arguments and come to a calm understanding.

Independence is being able to do your own thing and have different groups of friends.

Fun is when you have fun together but not at the expense of others (not having fun by picking on other people).

Equality is when no one misuses their power or skills to hurt or control others.

Safety is feeling like your body and emotions are safe with/around this person.

Empathy is being able to see a person’s world with no judgement, understand their feelings and communicate your understanding.

Empathy Statements can help us consider other people’s experiences without judgement. This can help us understand what people may be feeling, and even why they are behaving in a particular way.

  • Empathy Statement 1: I saw, and it made me feel… describe what happened and how you felt
  • Empathy Statement 2: They may have felt… think about how the person felt when the situation was happening
  • Empathy Statement 3: They may need… think about what this person might need immediately and, in the future, to prevent or stop the bullying from happening again

 

Respecting Personal Boundaries is listening to what someone says, respecting someone’s answer, and not pushing people to do or say things they are not comfortable with.

Understanding is using empathy and understanding other people’s emotions.

You

Healthy relationships are not just with other people. They are also with you. Our relationship with ourselves is based on our self-esteem.

What Is Self-Esteem and Why Is It Important?

Self-Esteem is how you think and feel about yourself. We can either have positive (think well) or negative (think poorly) self-esteem. Self-esteem influences our overall happiness. If we are not happy with ourselves, our happiness in other aspects of our lives is impacted, too. Having a positive view of oneself helps us to try new things, connect with others, believe in ourselves, and work hard to conquer challenging tasks. Our self-esteem might fluctuate here and there but building an overall sense of self-love and acceptance is important to your health and happiness. Self-esteem is also influenced by body image and body image influences self-esteem. Body Image is how you view your body (in your mind and when you look in the mirror). How you view your body can be impacted by your self-esteem and cultural ideals of beauty.

Valuing Yourself to Have Boundaries

Boundaries are so important to your wellness.

Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves in our relationships. Healthy boundaries allow us to say “No” to others and be ourselves.

 

Types of Boundaries

Boundaries are to help keep you safe. They create clear expectations which help to create healthy relationships. Your boundaries are for you to decide.

There are 7 types of boundaries:

boundaries that protect your feelings and thoughts. It is protecting your right to your feelings, not being ridiculed about your emotions, and not being responsible for other people’s emotions. Your feelings are your own. Emotional boundaries create a safe place to have your emotions. It is about knowing when to take time for yourself and what you are comfortable sharing.

boundaries that protect your thoughts and ideas. It is how you communicate and discuss things with others.

boundaries that protect your possessions and money. It is being paid by your job as agreed upon. Material boundaries also help you decide if you want to lend your things/money to someone or not.

boundaries that protect your body and space. You have a right not to be touched and to have privacy. It is also about valuing your body by eating well and resting. It is also the boundary around your body and how close you like people to you. This can change depending on who you are around.

boundaries which protect your right to consent and what kind of sexual activity you like/where/when/with whom. It is being able to express what you want.

boundaries that protect your right to believe in what you want and practice your spiritual/religious beliefs.

boundaries that protect how you spend your time. It is how you prioritize your time and know your time is worth something. Time boundaries allow you to say no to do things you do not want to do.

Remember, it is okay to say no! Boundaries protect us. They protect our time, energy, possessions, and relationships (to self and others).

If someone does not respond well to you setting boundaries, that is to do with them not you. You are allowed to have boundaries. Do not allow others to sway your boundaries because they want something from you or do not like the limits you have set. A healthy relationship is one in which your boundaries are respected and valued. Unhealthy relationships do not.

Building Relationships Through Communication

Communication allows us to share what we think, how we feel, what we want, and what we expect. It helps us to share our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Good communication helps us build our relationships with family and friends.

  • Verbal Communication is based on our words.
  • Nonverbal Communication is communication based on our actions (eye contact, body posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, and voice volume).

 

Types of Communication

Aggressive Communication is when a person is expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings in a manner that attacks the position and dignity of the receiver.

Examples:

  • Yelling angrily
  • Confrontational body language
  • Grabbing the other person
  • Being rude
  • Angrily swearing at the other person

 

It can cause the other person to feel uncomfortable, scared, and unable to speak up.

 

Passive Aggressive Communication is when a person is expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings in an indirect manner. It is delivered in a way that allows the sender to maintain a façade of kindness even though their intentions are not kind.

Examples:

  • Sarcasm
  • Backhanded comments (“Oh, you look very nice… for you.”)
  • Rolling eyes
  • Their words do not match their tone
  • Does not directly talk about the topic
  • Blaming others (“Well, if someone hadn’t lost their keys, we would have been here on time.”)

 

It can cause the other person to feel confused and frustrated.

Passive Communication is when someone is unable or unwilling to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. They go along with what others say and do not speak up for themselves.

Examples:

  • Closed off body language- hunched over, head down, etc.
  • Not confident
  • Non-confrontational

 

It can cause the other person to feel confused, uncomfortable, and want to give in.

 

Assertive Communication is when a person is expressing needs, thoughts, and feelings in a direct manner that does not attack the receiver but rather upholds their dignity. It is the key to positive conflict resolution.

Examples:

  • Confidently expressing needs
  • Straightforward and non-threatening
  • Open body language
  • Looking in the eye
  • Calm
  • Clear tone of voice

 

The other person can feel heard, understood, and hopeful for a solution.

 

“I” Statement is a way of phrasing our communication where we use “I” sentences to state how we are feeling and how the behaviour/action that happened made us feel. We can use it to offer solutions for next time.

Three parts to “I” Statements:

  1. Focusing on how you feel
  2. Describing what happened (the action or behaviour)
  3. Offering a solution to the problem

 

For example, “I am feeling very frustrated. I do not like you wearing my clothes without asking. I know I usually let you wear my clothes, but I would appreciate it if you asked first.”

Consent

Consent is a voluntary agreement between people that they want to do something together. Make sure everyone says yes because they want to and not because they feel pressured to say yes.

Consent is:

  • Active, not passive. Only YES means YES!
  • Knowing and respecting a person’s own boundaries, as well as the boundaries of others
  • Ongoing conversation, not a one-time deal.

 

Consent Laws in Canada

Legal age of consent to sexual activity with anyone older than you is 16 in Canada.

Under 12

Cannot consent to sexual activity.

Ages 12-13

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with someone less than 2 years older than them.

Ages 14-15

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with someone less than 5 years older unless the person is in a position of power, authority, or influence over the other (then they cannot give consent).

Ages 16+

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with an adult regardless of age, unless the adult is in a position of power, authority, or influence over the youth (then consent cannot be given).

Consent cannot be given (and it does not count if given)
  • On someone’s behalf (given by someone else)
  • If the other person is in a position of power, trust, or authority (coach, teacher, counsellor, boss, family member)
  • If someone is threatened, manipulated or forced
  • If someone expresses in words or actions NO (a lack of agreement)
    • Actions can include turning away, putting hands/arms up to block the person, stepping back, shaking head no, etc.
  • If someone is incapable of giving consent (unconscious, sleeping, under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
    • If a person is unconscious, asleep, drunk, high or otherwise intoxicated, they cannot give consent. The person must be alert, of stable mind, conscious, and sober to give consent to sexual activity.

Dealing With Conflict

Conflict is a disagreement (difference of opinion) between people or groups. It can be big or small, and the outcome depends on how we respond, manage our emotions, and choose to resolve the conflict.

Conflict Resolution is how to respond to a conflict, instead of reacting to the conflict.

Four steps to responding to conflict:

  1. STOP- take a few breaths. Remove yourself from the situation. Pause before hitting send or replying to messages.
  2. THINK- think about what you want and what the other person wants. Use empathy to try and understand the other person’s point of view.
  3. FEEL- recognize your feelings. Are you mad, angry, or sad? Make sure you are in control of your feelings and emotions. If you don’t feel in control, go back to Step One and take some time to step away from the conflict and come back later.
  4. ACT- work to resolve the conflict. When we see conflict as a natural and normal part of our interactions with others, we can focus on finding a solution, rather than deciding who is right or wrong.

Unhealthy Relationships

Qualities of Unhealthy Relationships

Control is when someone makes all the decisions, tells others what to do, and does not let others do what they want. A controlling person might try to isolate a person from family and friends or become jealous. (This is not the same as parents, caregivers, teachers, and coaches having rules and guidelines in your life. The guidelines, rules, and responsibilities are to help you, even if sometimes it does not feel like it!).

Hostility is when one person tries to pick fights with the other person.

Dishonesty is when one person is lying or keeping information from another person. It could also be the person stealing from the other person. This does not include keeping information like a surprise party or a present from the other person.

Disrespect is when the person makes fun of the other person and their opinions or interests. It could also be destroying something which belongs to the other person.

Dependence is when two people feel as though they cannot live without one another, or when one person feels they cannot live without someone else. If the relationship ends or threatens to end, one person may threaten or do something drastic or unhealthy.

Intimidation is when one person tries to control another through fear (like threats of violence, insults, or isolation).

Violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Violence might be used to maintain control over the other person.

 

If you are experiencing any of these in any of your relationships, please ask for help. Tell a trusted adult and they can help you cope with it. Whichever side of the relationship you are on, talk to a trusted adult about how to develop a positive relationship.

Self

Sometimes, we struggle with our self-esteem. There might be times when you do not feel 100% confident. That is okay! If you find yourself struggling with your self-esteem, tell a trusted adult. Low self-esteem can cause unhealthy consequences.

If you have low self-esteem, it can lead to:

  • Increased anxiety, stress, loneliness, and depression
  • Problems with relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating in schools
  • Increased risk of using drugs or alcohol

 

If you are struggling with treating yourself with respect, love, and compassion, talk to someone about it. Remember: for every one negative thing you tell yourself, you need to tell yourself ten positive things to cancel it out. Be kind to yourself!

Others

If you are struggling with unhealthy relationships with others, tell someone you trust who can help you. No matter who the unhealthy relationship is with, seeking help and support will help you cope with the situation. Unhealthy relationships with others can lead to an unhealthy relationship with oneself which can negatively impact your wellbeing. You deserve to be happy!

Signs of Unhealthy Relationships With Others

Any type of relationship can be unhealthy. It can be with a friend, family member, coach, or partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.).

What Are the Signs?

Relationships can be unhealthy in different ways, but if you notice any of these signs in one of your relationships, it might mean it is unhealthy. There are many different types of red flags (warnings) of unhealthy relationships.

They could include:

  • You feel unhappy, weighed down, tired upset, or uncomfortable hanging out with the person. It could also feel this way when you think about hanging out with them or after you hang out with them.
  • It feels wrong to hang out with them.
  • You are the one who puts in all the effort.
  • They use you.
    • This could look like them always asking you for stuff but never returning it. This could even be them constantly talking about them and not wanting to hear about you.
  • They are much older than you and try to be your friend/partner. They might message you constantly or give you expensive presents. They may make you feel bad for not doing something they want to do even if it makes you uncomfortable.
    • While it can seem cool an older person is giving you attention or wants to date, this can be a red flag. They will often use manipulation to get/keep you in the relationship.
      • What is manipulation? It is skillfully influencing or controlling a person by using unfair, clever, or deceptive ways. Example: If you don’t do this, I won’t be your friend anymore.
  • They are not supportive of you and the things you find important.
  • They are not happy for you when you succeed.
  • Communication is poor.
  • Resentment.
  • Lying/cheating.
  • Disrespect.
  • Ignoring your needs.
  • Isolation. You do not hang out with your loved ones as much anymore.
  • You stop taking care of yourself.
  • There is violence.

Violence

Any type of violence is not okay in a relationship. The person being harmed does not, nor ever, deserved it. This is unhealthy behaviour. Violence is not limited to being physically harmed. 

 

Violence includes:

the use of words or actions to control, dominate, intimidate, degrade, or intentionally harm another person psychologically. Emotional violence is a “red flag” warning sign of violence. It typically happens before physical violence. It is the most common form of violence.

Examples of emotional violence: Making fun/overly criticizing, threats of violence or property destruction, spying, controlling what a person does or who they spend time together with, spreading rumours/telling secrets, etc.

the use of intentional force on another person to control their behaviour, intimidate, or punish.

Examples include: scratching, biting, pushing/shoving, grabbing the person’s clothes, preventing the person from leaving a place, strangulation, or using a weapon.

It can be one incident. It may also involve multiple, repeated, and potentially escalating incidents.

forcing any form of sexual activity on someone without their consent.

any situation where one person uses verbal or physical means to obtain sexual activity without consent. This includes pressuring someone into saying yes. This is sexual assault.

any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours, or other forms of verbal, written, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, like making sexual jokes which make people feel uncomfortable, posting offensive online pictures, name-calling based on someone’s gender or sexual orientation, or unwanted touching.

sending sexually explicit images or messages from one person to another using technology.

 

The law states that sexting between or regarding anyone under 18 is considered possessing and distributing child pornography. Anyone owning a device or accessing these images can be charged.

The law is concerned with the distribution of images and videos and whether one person in the relationship shares those images with other people or the images are leaked.

Any type of violence in a relationship is not okay regardless of whether it happens once or more than once. Tell someone and seek help. Both parties involved need help either developing the skills for healthy relationships or coping with the impact of the violence.

If someone is using/has used violence against you, remember it is not your fault. It does not reflect your worth.

*7 Types of Emotional Violence:

  1. Degrading: a person receives messages that they are not good enough. They are insulted, humiliated and made fun of. They may come to feel worthless.
  2. Isolating: a person is kept from their regular social interactions, and/or their family and friends. They are cut off from their support networks.
  3. Ignoring: a person is given mixed messages – welcomed in some situations and ignored in others.
  4. Terrorizing: fear is created using insults and be verbal or non-verbal threats, which intimidate a person.
  5. Corrupting: a person is encouraged to participate in unwanted, harmful, and perhaps even illegal behaviour.
  6. Exploiting: one person uses another to obtain something they want or need – whether emotionally, physically, financially, or sexually.
  7. Controlling: one person tries to dominate and control another person’s behaviour. This is often motivated by jealousy.

Trauma Bond

Sometimes, when we are in an unhealthy relationship, we can feel confused and caught up in it all.

You might find yourself:

  • Making excuses for the person’s behaviour
  • Lying for the person
  • Feeling hopeless or like you can’t get out
  • Thinking about the person who hurts you a lot
  • Feeling like you aren’t good enough and that you have to prove yourself by being really kind, helpful, or caring to the person
  • Remember, you are good enough! If someone makes you feel that way, that is not a healthy situation for you to be in. Surround yourself with people who value you. You are worthy!
  • Having to keep secrets about mistreatment, exploitation, or abuse
  • Trusting someone over and over again when they have proven themselves unreliable
  • Feeling confused or uncertain
  • Feeling like you are walking on eggshells, and you have to please the person

 

If you have ever felt any of these ways in a relationship, this could be a sign of a trauma bond. This is when we feel drawn to, affectionate towards, or loyal to someone who is harming us. There are many different reasons why this happens.

If you feel like you are caught in this type of relationship, talk to someone and get help. Tell someone you trust, whether it is a counsellor, elder, spiritual leader, or trusted adult.

Abuse

If you are being abused in any of your relationships, tell someone you trust. Even if the person is threatening you or tells you not to tell anyone, you need to tell someone to get help. You deserve to get help.

 

If you are being abused by an adult in your life, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-387-5437 (KIDS). It is available 24/7 in multiple languages. You can also call the Kids Help Phone for support at 1-800-668-6868.

 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

 

If a friend or someone you know is being abused, tell someone. They need help. You can call the Child Abuse Hotline or a helping/trusted adult.

Bullying

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is mean and hurtful behaviour.

Bullying is:

  • Intentional: the person is mean and hurtful on purpose. If they do not mean to do it, it is an accident.
  • Repeated: the person is mean more than once. If they are hurtful one time, that is someone being rude or inconsiderate.
  • Power Imbalance: the person is using their power negatively. Their power could come from: being older, being bigger/stronger, having more friends, knowing more, having more confidence, or having more things. If there is no power imbalance, it is a conflict.

Who Does Bullying Involve?

The person who is targeted by the bullying behaviour.

The person who is bullying.

The person who witnesses the bullying.

 

These roles can shift, and people can find themselves in more than one of these roles in different areas of their lives.

What Are the Types of Bullying?

Verbal: using words to be mean and hurtful

  • For example, teasing, insults, threatening, making jokes, humiliating someone, racist/sexist/homophobic comments, or sexualized language.

Physical: harming someone’s body or their things

  • For example, hitting, slapping, punching, pushing, choking, hazing, spitting, stealing/wrecking someone’s property, grabbing, or choking.

Social: harming someone socially, like ignoring someone, telling secrets, ruining friendships, or inviting someone to do something and not showing up.

  • For example, spreading rumours, telling secrets, ganging up on someone, ignoring someone, keeping someone away from their friends, or making plans with someone and not showing up to be mean.

Cyberbullying: using technology to be hurtful, like texting mean things or posting hurtful things on social media.

  • For example, sending hurtful or mean messages via text, email, social media, or phone call, sharing an embarrassing picture of someone without permission, pretending to be someone else online, or creating pages or polls to rate people in a hurtful way.

Who Does Bullying Hurt?

Everyone! Bullying does not just hurt the target. It harms the witness and the aggressor, too.

When someone is bullied, it can be really hurtful and have many negative outcomes.

When someone is being mean to others, it is often because they are not feeling well and do not love themselves.

If someone sees a person being bullied, it can be scary and cause the person to worry they are going to be next.

Bullying does not just hurt in the moment.

This is why we need to get help.

How to Deal With Bullying?

There are a couple of things you can do to deal with bullying:

If you are bullied:

  • Cyberbullying
    • Block/delete them
    • Save the messages for proof
    • Do not respond
    • Report the bullying to the site, trusted adults, and the police
    • Use the bullying helpline at 1-888-456-2323
    • Bullying Helpline Chat, click here to be directed to the chat page. It is available from noon to 8 p.m. daily MST
    • Call the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868
  • Other Bullying
    • Tell the person to stop
    • Use humour and confidence
      • Show the person their words do not matter or mean anything
      • Know what they are saying is about you is more about them
      • You can use confidence by staying calm. They are looking for a reaction.
      • Using humour is taking what they say and “owning” it in a humorous way. For example, if they say, “You’re so ugly,” you could respond with “I know, right?? It’s actually amazing how ugly I am.” Remember, this is not you validating what they say! It is just showing them their words don’t have power.
    • Ask for support
      • Get friends to walk with you. Use the buddy system.
    • Walk away if you can
    • Tell a helping adult
      • If the first one does not take you seriously, tell someone else.
    • Use the bullying helpline at 1-888-456-2323
    • Bullying Helpline Chat, click here to be directed to the chat page. It is available from noon to 8 p.m. daily MST
    • Call the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

Further Resources

If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.

Call toll-free: 1-877-303-2642

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