Teaching Toddlers About Healthy Relationships
We all have different hopes for our children. We might hope that they grow up to be a leader, an athlete, or an adventurer. But across the board, it is safe to say that parents hope their children grow up to be happy. That they grow up to be kind individuals surrounded by positive people who will support them. The most significant step in reaching this goal is learning how to foster healthy relationships.
Learning about healthy relationships starting in preschool will help your child develop healthy habits and be more likely to maintain long-lasting relationships later in life. In preschool, we are developing the fundamental building blocks for healthy relationships when we practice sharing, playing well with others, respect, and more!
So, how can we teach toddlers about healthy relationships?
What is a healthy relationship?
Let’s first start by defining what this is. If you type in a search bar “Define Healthy Relationship,” you will notice that the definition given is an assortment of various characteristics, a list of what goes into this topic. If you continue your search for what this means, you will find that every article will have different characteristics of what makes up a healthy relationship.
That is because there is no secret recipe for such relationships. We choose what we want to have in a partnership. Some key components are:
- Mutual Respect
How can you promote these building blocks at home?
We can talk to children about what healthy relationships look like, but the most important thing is to model this behavior. Children constantly learn through everyday observations, so be mindful of your actions. Here are five ways to promote relationship fundamentals at home.
Model a healthy relationship/being a good friend.
This is the best way for your child to understand the importance of this topic and how it will impact them in the future. Reflect on what you value in your relationships between your partner, children, family, friends, and strangers. You can also talk about specific actions and why they are essential. For example, ask someone if they are okay when they are down and ask how you can support them. Then, talk with your child about why you should do this in a relationship.
Establishing boundaries helps people feel safe and comfortable. For example, don’t force your child to hug a relative they don’t want to and listen when they voice their desires in wanting to opt out of an activity. By doing this, you are communicating that setting boundaries is a good thing and should be respected. This is a building block for managing and understanding peer pressure and developing their own person.
Talk about listening & communication.
Every healthy relationship prioritizes listening and communication. Without these skills, misunderstanding, neglect, and resentment are common. Encourage your child to stop, reflect on their feelings, and voice them out loud. Children are brilliant and understand so much. This simple practice will get them in the habit of calming down from what made them upset in the first place and work on finding solutions instead of getting more upset. Furthermore, to encourage active listening, you can ask your child to relay back what you talked to them about.
Encourage children to tell the truth & be honest.
Being truthful and honest establishes trust. To encourage your child to talk honestly, avoid getting angry immediately after they tell the truth. Instead, work through any difficulties and ask your child what they learned and how they should handle the situation in the future.
Say thank you.
Thank you is truly a magical phrase. Saying thank you shows your partner that they are valued and that you are grateful for what they have done. People want acknowledgement for what they have done. So encourage your child to say thank you after dinner, when a door is opened for them, when you bring them a new book, etc.
Special Activities & Books
Children learn the most when they participate in engaging activities. Go to this page for some ideas!
Write a kind letter or draw a picture for a friend.
Sit down with your child and ask them to whom they would like to send a special message. Encourage them to write if they can or draw a friendly image. Then deliver the letter! This activity promotes relationship building and doing small acts of kindness.
Write down what a good friend looks like/does to set expectations.
Grab some sticky notes and ask your child to reflect on their friends, family, and what they see on TV. Write down everything they can think of while also helping them. This activity will help them set expectations for healthy relationships and think about their own actions. Then, talk through each idea they have!
Some books we recommend for preschoolers on this topic are:
We use the Wheel of Choice to teach our preschoolers positive ways to interact with their peers and healthily solve problems. This is a positive guidance and redirection technique that we walk through. When an issue arises, the children involved will be asked to choose how they want to proceed and improve the situation. They can choose from:
- Counting to 10.
- Sharing and taking turns.
- Working it out together.
- Going to a cool-off spot.
- Asking them to stop.
- Being a friend.