Healthy Relationships
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Relationships, Consent and Sexting
October 2022

By the time teens reach high school, friendships become more stable. This is likely because individual identities are more solid and teens learn to accept greater differences in one another. As a result, compromise increasingly takes the place of conforming to peer norms.
Concern over reputation peaks in grade 8/9. That means most high school students are less worried about how they are perceived and more focused on the social dynamics within their peer groups. There is also a shift in the importance of romantic partners over friends by the 10th grade. 

This Snapshot provides a guide to supporting your teen in navigating their social world and dating experiences.

Characteristics of Healthy Relationships

It is important to educate youth about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships before they start to date. Youth may not be equipped with the necessary skills to develop healthy relationships, or know how to break up appropriately if necessary. Maintaining open lines of communication with them may help them recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, preventing potential emotional or physical abuse before it starts. 
Healthy relationships share certain characteristics that teens should learn to expect. They include:

Mutual respect. Respect means that each person values who the other is, and understands the other person’s boundaries.

Trust. Partners should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Being a role model. By embodying what respect means, partners can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way.

Good communication. Each partner should speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. If one person needs to sort out their feelings, the other should respect those wishes and wait until they are ready to talk.
 Anger control. We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships.  Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or talking it out.

Fighting fair. Everyone argues but those who are fair, stick to the subject and avoid insults, are more likely to come up with a possible solution. Partners should take a short break  from each other if the discussion gets too heated.
Individuality. Neither partner should have to compromise who they are or base their identity on a partner’s. Each should continue seeing their friends and doing the things they love. They should be supportive of their partner wanting to pursue new hobbies or make new friends.
Honesty. Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship.

Compromise. In a dating relationship, each partner does not always get their way.
Both should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take.
Self-confidence. When dating partners have confidence in themselves, it can help their relationships with others. It shows that they are calm and comfortable enough to allow others to express their opinions without forcing their opinions on them.
Problem solving. Dating partners can learn to solve problems and identify new solutions by breaking a problem into small parts or by talking through the situation.

Understanding. Each partner should take time to understand what the other might be feeling.
Healthy sexual relationship. Dating partners engage in a sexual relationship that both are comfortable with, and neither partner feels pressured or forced to engage in sexual activity that is outside their comfort zone or without consent. 
Characteristics of Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are marked by characteristics such as disrespect and control. It is important for youth to be able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. Some characteristics of unhealthy relationships include:
Control. One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. They are unreasonably jealous, and/or try to isolate the other from their friends and family.

Hostility. One dating partner picks a fight or antagonizes the other. This may lead to one partner changing their behavior in order to avoid upsetting the other.

Physical violence. One partner uses force to get their way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).

Dishonesty. One dating partner lies to, keeps information from the other or steals from them. 

Disrespect. One dating partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other or destroys something that belongs to them.

Dependence. One dating partner feels that they “cannot live without” the other. They may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
Intimidation. One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other's life by making the other fearful or timid. One partner may threaten violence or a break-up.

Sexual violence. One dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against their will or without consent.

In Canada, the age of consent is the legal age when a person can make a decision to have sexual intercourse. The law states that a 16 year old can consent to sex, except if the:
There are close in age exceptions to this law:

14 & 15 year olds may consent to sex if the partner is less than 5 years older

12 & 13 year olds may consent to sex if the partner is less than 2 years older
other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, or employer)

sexual activity will take advantage of the person (e.g., pornography, prostitution, or trading sex for safety). 

Sexual consent means both partners agree to the sexual activity and understand what they’re agreeing to.

Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching and sexual intercourse. Consent is the basis or foundation for sexual relationships. 
Here are important points for talking about sexual consent with your youth:
Consent is freely given. If a person feels forced or bullied, or there’s something to lose by saying ‘no’ (personal safety, a relationship), it’s not consent.

‘No’ always means ‘no’ whether given verbally or non-verbally. A lack of an affirmative positive, freely given ‘yes’ is also a ‘no’.
A ‘yes’ isn’t consent if someone is coerced. Examples of coercion are if the person pressures, pesters, threatens, guilt trips, blackmails, intimidates, bullies, or harasses someone.

Consent can be taken away at any time. At any point, someone can change their mind and withdraw consent. Consent given before doesn’t apply to any activities that happen later.

Flirting, clothing, sexual texts or social media communication is not consent.

Sexting is when people send or receive sexual pictures, messages, or videos through technology. Trying to frighten young people from sexting by talking about doomsday scenarios is not effective. Some people express intimacy by sharing consensual sexts. However sexting does come with risks, and it’s important that your teen understands these risks.

It is illegal to:

Create sexual images/videos of anyone younger than 18 years old (including a video a person creates themselves). This is considered child sexual abuse material or pornography.
Possess child sexual abuse material (save child sexual abuse material on a phone, computer or other device).

Distribute child sexual abuse material (sell or share images/videos). This includes showing it to people, forwarding it, or posting it to the internet.

Talking about sexting may be awkward. But the fact is, it’s very important to talk to your teen about it. Here are some questions you could consider:

Have you heard of sexting?
How do you feel about sexting?
Do you know anyone who has sent a sext?
What could you do if you get a sext?
What should you do if you’re asked to send a sext?
What could happen if you send a sext?
Things to talk to your teen about:
Think before you send. You need to feel in control about what you send and receive.
In the electronic world, act the same as you would when you’re face-to-face.
Never assume your messages or pictures will stay private. They may be copied, shared, or stored.
Consent- It's as Simple as Tea

If you‘re still struggling with consent, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you‘re making them a cup of tea. You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “oh my god, I would LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!” then you know they want a cup of tea.....

Parents You Are Doing Great!

We know you‘re doing great because you‘re reading this Snapshot.

You‘re reading this Snapshot because you care about doing a good job.

You try. You make mistakes. You try some more. That‘s all you can do.

Keep doing a great job!

October School Poster
We all deserve relationships based on trust, honesty, and respect. But, navigating relationships or helping those we care about to feel safe and supported can be confusing. 

This poster outlines the fundamental rights we all have in our relationships. These rights can help to establish boundaries and expectations that should be respected by both partners in healthy relationship.

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