The only things I remember about learning life lessons and mental health skills in elementary school, middle school, and high school are learning things like “how to improve your self esteem” and, “how to give compliments to one another.” While these things are great, they really only scrape the surface of many issues kids face. And mostly, when the guidance counselors or guest speakers came in to talk about this stuff, everyone just viewed it as a great opportunity to take a break from school.
The point I’m trying to make is that these “life lessons” my school tried to teach us, instead, was blown off. It was seen as a nice break from learning about formulas, grammar, and history. While I’m not quite educated enough myself to fully criticize the education system, there is one thing I can say with confidence – my school did a poor job of teaching how to be in a healthy relationship, and how to handle an unhealthy one. Relationships matter SO MUCH to peoples’ mental health and when you’re young and just starting to learn how to be in a romantic relationship, the impacts of these relationships can be profound. You may start to learn things that become ingrained beliefs, such as not being good or worthy of being treated with kindness and respect. Or you may develop unhealthy habits that can negatively effect your relationships in the future, and as you age these habits get harder and harder to break. You may learn that it’s okay to be treated poorly, that it’s normal and acceptable, because you don’t realize it’s not. You might just simply not know how to handle being treated poorly in a relationship. You may feel trapped and unsure of what to do.
This TED talk is a great example of some basics we can and should be teaching young people and I agree with what she says 100%:
In addition to what she mentioned in the video, specific problems need to be especially emphasized even though almost everything falls under the umbrellas of the topics she mentioned. First off, teach boys (and girls, but with society’s stereotypes and expectations of boys, this is more of a problem amongst boys) how to be egalitarian in a relationship and, put simply, NOT ABUSIVE. Teach them that it is NOT okay to have all the power in their relationship, and that controlling and/or degrading their partner in any way is unacceptable. Teach girls (and boys, but as mentioned before, with the way society is, this is more of a problem among girls) what to do when/if they find themselves in this situation. Teach both boys and girls what to do when and if they find their friends in this situation. Teach them that it is NOT okay to ridicule their friend, harass their friend, and support their friend’s abusive behaviors. Teach them TO support and to treat their friend with kindness, and teach them how NOT to support their friends abusing their partner.
I realize it goes beyond education. I know that some of these problems are societal issues and psychological ones, deeply ingrained and learned from their parents or developed biologically. But I firmly believe that if we equip young people, especially around the age of learning how to be in a relationship, that they will have at least a little more success with their relationship and in turn their mental health will improve. This is something that cannot keep being neglected. It’s sickening how many people my age lack proper relationship skills, simply because they were never taught. Myself included, as I’m not perfect, but I’ve been learning so much about healthy relationships from videos and articles because it was never taught to me. I’m lucky enough to have a passion about something that also helps me out in different ways or else I wouldn’t care to learn about any of this. Although, I can’t help but think that if I learned these skills earlier, I would be a little better off in my relationships.
Proper, in-depth relationship skills MUST be taught amongst the math and English classes at a young age because while schools do teach important skills for a kid’s future, the quality of one’s relationships is fundamental to their mental health and well-being and if we don’t teach them early on, it may simply be too late.