Youth Share Relationship Insights During 4-H Briefing

In April 2019, youth attending the 2019 National 4-H Conference in Washington, DC, visited the Family and Youth Services Bureau to present federal staff with a briefing about the importance of healthy relationships. Young people, representing 13 states across the U.S., presented research on the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships and also focused on the challenges youth experience and the strategies they use to talk about, refuse, and/or negotiate intimacy with others.  

Throughout the presentation, the youth identified several challenges that young people face when navigating relationships. These include a lack of comfort with talking about relationship boundaries and a lack of transparent conversations and resources that provide guidance with handling intimate relationships. The group shared that having a trusted adult or confidant who is open-minded and respectful can have a huge impact on supporting healthy relationship development. They also expressed feelings that their relationships are often not taken seriously by the adults in their lives, which makes it even more difficult to confide and seek support from those adults. Threats of fear and intimidation were also identified as potential barriers to seeking information about relationships and leaving unhealthy relationships.

Here are some strategies that were recommended for promoting healthy relationships amount youth:

  • A healthy relationships awareness campaign that would include a physical or digital badge/sticker to remind youth they can leave an unhealthy relationship. This would be an easy way for friends and adults to share their support with young people.
  • A National Relationship Health Journal that would feature real stories of youth and their relationships. This resource for youth, by youth, would highlight how people can safely discontinue unhealthy relationships and learn about support services.
  • A safe physical or digital space for youth to talk about their relationships in a way that will be respectful and helpful.

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