Secondary: Relationships & Consent
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Secondary - December 2021
Relationships   Romance
Peer relationships play a central role in adolescent development. They help build character and can be an important source of emotional support. Parental guidance including ongoing conversations around friendships, romantic relationships, consent and the ways teens communicate (in person and online) is critical to shaping the values and beliefs that support the development of healthy and fulfilling relationships.  
Romantic Relationships
As your children get older, some may begin to try to find a partner to build a relationship with. Parents often aren‘t sure what their role should be when a child is old enough to start dating. 

Teens do look to parents for guidance and you often have more influence than you realize. With this in mind, you may want to share following suggestions with your youth. You can start bringing these things up long before they start dating, and continue affirming them as they get older.
Look for someone you feel comfortable with. Being comfortable with someone means:
You can be yourself around them
You can have different opinions on something, and know that it‘s okay
You trust each other when you‘re not together
You aren‘t pressured to do things you don‘t want to do (like going somewhere you don‘t want to go, or wearing something you don‘t want to wear)
Know the signs of an unhealthy relationship. If you are in an unhealthy relationship your partner might: 
Be critical of you and make you feel bad
Try to keep you away from friends or family
Want to check your phone messages
Use social media to monitor you
Threaten that something bad will happen if you break up
Force you to do things you don‘t want to do
Hurt you physically
Make you feel guilty
 Be your own personIt‘s natural to share interests with the person you‘re dating but you also need to keep developing an identity outside of that person as well. Have an interest that‘s just yours. It will improve your self confidence which makes you more likely to be confident in your relationship.
Know the difference between good and bad conflict. We tend to think of conflict as a bad thing, but it isn‘t always. Conflict can even bring people closer together if they are able to stick to these rules during a disagreement:
Explain how you feel and be specific
Listen to how your partner feels and try to be understanding
Avoid generalizations
Don’t bring up past disagreements
Try to say things that are productive— rather than critical
Don‘t forget your friends. Some people will drop all their friends after they start dating. They might not mean for it to happen, but it does. Don‘t be that person! No one wants a friend who will abandon them for someone else, and you still need a social life outside of your partner. 
Teen Voices on Relationships
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What is Consent?
Consent is an important concept for all youth to learn about from an early age. It can lead to better relationships with family, friends, peers and eventually romantic partners. As a parent, you may have heard the word ’consent‘, but you may not know exactly what it includes. Simply put, consent is permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. Consent requires respect and communication. 
Consent includes knowing and respecting your own boundaries as well as the boundaries of others. Understanding consent means that a person has the skills to leave a situation that doesn‘t feel comfortable, and respects when other people want to do the same.

It is important to remember that youth don't have to be in a romantic relationship to require a clear understanding of sexual consent. Youth are most likely to talk to friends about personal issues. They need to have the knowledge to support each other and know when they need an adult's help.  

Consent is also important for online interactions and relationships and extends to sexting – sending, receiving and sharing content online such as photos and videos.

Talking with Youth about Consent
It‘s important to have ongoing conversations with your teen about consent. Here are some tips that will help you begin the  conversation:

Ask your teen what they know about consent. What have they learned at school? A special presentation? A conversation with a counsellor or friend? What would they have changed about the messaging and what resonated? Do their friends discuss it? What do they know about sextortion?

Starting with a neutral conversation can be a safer way to start the discussion and guage their level of understanding and interest.
Encourage your teen to watch the videos in this snapshot.  Ask them afterwards what they thought.  

Practice with your child what they can say and do if they were in a situation where they didn‘t feel comfortable. Scenarios don't need to just be about intimate situations. How can they tell a good friend they aren't comfortable driving with them? What if someone takes and posts a picture without their consent?

Conversations about consent should never be "one and done". Youth are in a time of almost constant change and new situations.  
It is important to keep checking in as their experiences may put them in new situations where they navigate consent differently. Make sure they understand the laws around consent, age of consent, online implications and how they could be affected.  
For Teens: Understanding Consent
The two videos below offer information for teens about consent. The first video uses the metaphor of "tea" to explain the concept and is often used in our schools as a resource. The second video is more specific in giving examples of how to manage ongoing consent. It may feel more uncomfortable for some to watch, however we have received feedback from youth that consent is often discussed at home and school as a "concept" and they don't really know how to practice it, in real time intimate situations.
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Consent and the Law
Age of consent to sexual activity: The age of consent is the age at which a young person can legally agree to sexual activity. Age of consent laws apply to all forms of sexual activity, ranging from kissing and fondling to sexual intercourse.
Canada's age of consent: The age of consent to sexual activity is 16 years. In some cases, the age of consent is higher (for example, when there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency). In other words, a person must be at least 16 years old to be able to legally agree to sexual activity with an adult.
Close in age exception for 12 and 13 year olds: A 12 or 13 year old can consent to sexual activity with a partner as long as the partner is less than two years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or any other exploitation of the young person. This means that if the partner is 2 years or older than the 12 or 13 year old, any sexual activity is a criminal offence.

Close in age exceptions for 14 and 15 year olds: A 14 or 15 year old can consent to sexual activity as long as the partner is less than five years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or any other exploitation of the young person. This means that if the partner is 5 years or older than the 14 or 15 year old, any sexual activity is a criminal offence.
Dating should be a fun time in your teen‘s life, but it is also a learning process. Like any life experience, your teen will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Your support and appropriate involvement in your teenager‘s dating life will help your child make smarter and safer decisions. 
Wishing you and your family a wonderful winter break!
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We Want to Hear From You!
Foundry's Provincial Virtual Services Youth and Family Councils is looking for young people (between12-25) to join our youth council and family members to join our family/caregiver council. The Councils are open to those who have used Foundry's Provincial Virtual Services. This could be a peer support session, counselling, a group, or our drop-in services. 

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