Key messages from this page:

  • Relationships skills (and communication skills) are not innate. They are learned and practiced.
  • Young people learn from watching adults. This helps shape their attitudes, beliefs, and expectations.
  • Gender stereotypes shape some people's views of how relationships should work.

Before we jump into how we navigate and ensure we can support young people to develop healthy relationships, it is important to mention that a fundamental aspect in healthy relationships is respect. However, respect is understood and practiced differently across cultures. Therefore, while there is never an excuse for violence and abuse, there may be some cultural differences in the displays of respect that we need to be cognisant of when working with diverse populations.

Love locks

When young people are asked how they rate their sexuality education they tell us they want more support with relationships – knowing what’s ok and what’s not, dealing with heartbreak, managing boundaries such as time and privacy, and sexual boundaries too.

These are not innate skills, they are learnt and practiced across all kinds of relationships, and count towards a young person’s mental health, their self-confidence and ability to form close, positive relationships.

Now think about how these skills are reinforced in young people. Think about the role that parents and other adults, such as yourself, play in modelling these skills and healthy relationships in general to those who you interact with daily. What happens if a young person may not have been exposed to healthy relationships early in life?

Often this is the situation that some of the young people that you work with will find themselves in as they never learned the fundamental skills that are required for the more complex aspects of establishing and maintaining positive and healthy relationships.

Intimate partner violence

Most young people enjoy positive romantic and/or sexual experiences, but rusted-on gender stereotypes tend to re-emerge within intimate relationships. Higher levels of violence against women are consistently associated with:

  • lower levels of gender equality in both public life and personal relationships.
  • rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity.
  • male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women (OurWatch 2020).

We have included links to some resources that are great conversation starters about healthy and unhealthy relationships, relationships skills and challenging gender stereotypes.