What does a safe vs an unsafe relationship/friendship look like? Or healthy vs unhealthy?
In a safe relationship there can be healthy boundaries. This means the relationship is productive and supportive. In an unsafe relationship there can be an imbalance of power where one person may be controlled or manipulated by another person. It’s where boundaries are not respected. We all have a need to be accepted and to fit in and sometimes this may cause us to compromise our values or comfort level.
(show image of card ) What do you think is happening in this image? Some kids are talking about fantasy football, or another sport team, scores and players and this one kid clearly is not a sports fan. ( Talk with the kids about what it means to pretend to like something even if you don’t in order
to fit in and be accepted). This kid has other interests that the boys don’t know about but, he feels he cant be himself. He knows that he will probably get caught pretending and this is causing a feeling of knots in his stomach, and he may be sweating or really cold. What happens if they find out? Is it a crime to not enjoy something that the other boys do? In a healthy friendship you can be yourself and still be accepted and appreciated.
In order to have healthy relationships we need to have boundaries. Boundaries can be physical and they can also be internal. A physical boundary would be asking someone to move back a bit and give you some space because it feels like they are way too close and it’s making you uncomfortable. internal boundaries have to do with knowing what thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors belong to me and what thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors belong to the other. So if one kid says “you don’t follow sports, you are such a loser” having healthy boundaries is the difference between taking those words in and thinking “ I am a loser, he must
be right, because I don’t like sports” and “I am not required to like the same things as you, I’m not you and I’m not a loser.”
Abuse requires the predator to break down a kid’s boundaries in order to get closer to him. A child who doesn’t know what he is worth and doesn’t know that he is allowed to set a boundary is an easier target. Teaching kids about setting a boundary even if you may not be accepted is a really important lesson to help build resilience against falling victim to abuse.
(Show card of kids with project) Let’s look at this image. 3 kids are paired up to work on a homework assignment during
school time. One kid in the group is known for being really smart and getting good grades. The other 2 decide that they will give him most of the work since he would do it better than them anyway. The other 2 say things like “you’re so much smarter than us so it just makes more sense for you to do it” and “ I don’t think I’ll have time to do it so if you don’t we most likely will get a bad grade.” What are these 2 kids doing? Breaching his boundary by being manipulative and coercing him into needing to do the project.
What would the 3rd kid need to do? Set a boundary and say “I’m not doing the whole project. I will do a 3rd and tell the teacher that this was my part.”
What will happen? The other 2 will be mad. It’s not easy to set a boundary, and the consequences are, he won’t fit in, or worse, but setting a boundary means being respected and respecting others. You can’t have any relationship that’s worth having without healthy boundaries.