Teens urge peers to “Face it, don’t Facebook it.”
BOSTON – The Boston Public Health Commission, in partnership with Northeastern University, is hosting the first-of-its-kind “Break-up Summit.” The summit, which will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at Northeastern’s Curry Student Center Ballroom, 328 Huntington Avenue, will bring together young people and youth-serving organizations to discuss, plan, and identify strategies to help teens engage in healthy relationship break-ups.
“It’s normal for teens to have relationships that don’t work out,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Commission’s executive director. “So, it’s important that they have the skills to end a relationship in a healthy way. This summit will give teens those tools and give parents the tools to support them.”
Most young people engage in multiple relationships throughout their teenage years, making mistakes and practicing their relationship skills. The ensuing break-ups (at any age) can be messy, uncomfortable, and hurtful. And although “Dear John” letters may be a thing of the past, technology and social media - like texting, Facebook, and Twitter - have upped the impersonal ante.
“It takes two seconds to post a hurtful Facebook status update, short-sighted Tweet, or even a racy ‘sexting’ picture,” said Casey Corcoran, director of the Commission’s Start Strong Initiative. “However, those actions can have long-lasting consequences, living on in cyberspace long after the relationship has ended.”
Although a “healthy break-up” may seem like an oxymoron, there are steps that teens – and adults – can take to increase the likelihood of a respectful split. As long as there is no abuse, Corcoran recommends ending a relationship face-to-face so that the conversation is not one-sided. He also recommends that people use the “Take 3” strategy that was developed by the Commission: Take a technology time-out, take care of yourself, and take responsibility for your own actions before, during, and after the break-up.
The summit represents the latest effort undertaken by the Commission to build teens’ healthy relationship skills, teaching them what a healthy relationship is, and knowing when to end them. Corcoran says that if it doesn’t include respect, honesty, trust, and open communication, it is important for teens to have the skills to leave the relationship in a safe and respectful way. Bad break-ups, on the other hand, can leave teens feeling insecure, untrusting, and ill-prepared for future relationship conflicts.
“Just because you are breaking up with someone, you still have a responsibility to respect them as a person,” said Terrance Miles, 17, Start Strong peer leader and Dorchester native. “If you have an unhealthy break-up, there can be a lot of residue. It can feel like you never broke up.”
The summit will feature a “State of the Break-Up” address delivered by Miles and other Start Strong teen peer leaders. Following the address, teens and adults alike will participate in a series of interactive and engaging discussions and workshops focused on healthy break-ups. The Commission’s Start Strong Initiative is also releasing a series of tools to help teens build healthy relationship and conflict resolution skills:
• “Breaking-Up is Hard To Do: Ten Tips for Supporting Your Teen ” – A tool for adults to assess their skills around talking to/helping teens through break-ups
• “Healthy Relationship Quiz” – A tool to help teens determine if they are in a relationship that they want to stay in
• “U R Breaking Up” - A tool that uses the cell phone reception bars to help teens think about the best way to be heard/have maximum reception during a break-up
• "What Apps Will You Choose?” – A tool that uses common cell phone applications to help teens think about their technology choices when going through a break-up
Last year, the Commission’s Start Strong Initiative released the Sound Relationships Nutritional Label, a tool that helps music lovers evaluate how healthy – or unhealthy – song lyrics are by helping them identify relationship ingredients that make up a song.
“Teens need to understand that healthy relationships and healthy break-ups can help them become better people,” Miles said. “Healthy break-up skills are just as important as healthy relationship skills.”
Start Strong is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation are investing $18 million in 11 Start Strong communities across the country to identify and evaluate best practices in prevention to stop dating violence and abuse before it starts.
“Teen dating violence is a serious public health problem in this country,” said Kristin Schubert, program officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are so pleased that Start Strong Boston is finding innovative ways to engage young people and teach them about healthy relationships and healthy break-ups. This is an important step to making teens a part of the solution.”
For more information about Wednesday’s Break-up Summit, visit the Commission’s website at www.bphc.org or call the Start Strong Initiative at 617-534-5674.