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How to Model Healthy Relationships for your Children

How to Model Healthy Relationships for your Children

As parents, it can be easy to forget that almost everything we say or do has an impact on our children.

“Children are like sponges and more than likely, they will model our behaviors later in life,” said CHI St. Alexius Health Nurse Practitioner Anna Wolf, MSN, APRN, FNP-C. “Modeling healthy relationships with them and the people around us during their formative years to give children the tools they need to practice positive relationships later in life.”

It begins with your family. You should strive to spend quality time together and with each child. Laugh and do fun things together, show acceptance, affection and teach your children to respect each other, and offer help and support to one another. “Having healthy relationships and feeling connected socially also promotes emotional wellbeing and mental health,” Wolf said.

Practice these four tenets of healthy relationships.

Positive communication - When you are with your children, genuinely listen, ask questions and engage in the conversation. Model direct and clear communication with friends and family. Teach and model effective problem-solving skills by talking through conflicts clearly and directly.

Show kindness - If you want our children to be kind, you need to show acceptance and kindness to others as well. Avoid being judgmental and strive to treat others with compassion and love.

Practice honesty - Being honest and truthful is essential to building strong and trusting relationships.

Teach self-respect - Teach your children to always show respect toward others, no matter their relationship or position in life. If you are in an abusive or emotionally abusive relationship, do not stay in it for “the sake of the children.” In the long run, this can do them more harm than good as it will reinforce that this is how relationships work.

Identifying unhealthy relationships

Teach your children to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships. “These are things you can discuss with your children when you see it happening amongst others, with their friends or on TV programs,” said Wolf. 

These include:

Control - Making all the decisions and telling the other person what they can or can’t do. Dependence –Feeling dependent on the other person and saying they “can’t live without” him or her. 

Monitoring - Monitoring the other person through social media, texting, etc., and demanding immediate responses.

Dishonesty - Regularly lying, stealing or hiding information from the other.

Disrespect - Undermining the other person or making fun of them. Hostility – Being unkind and always looking for ways to pick a fight. Intimidation – Using fear or threats to control the other.

Physical violence - Using physical violence against the other to maintain control.

Sexual violence - Using pressure or force to make the other participate in sexual activity.

“The pandemic underscored the importance of positive human connections,” said Wolf. “Remember that while healthy relationships can promote good mental health, unhealthy relationships and chronic emotional stress can be detrimental to your health and lead to mental and other health problems.”



Anna Wolf, DNP, APRN, FNP-C
CHI St. Alexius Health Williston Medical Center