Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative Puts the Spotlight on Healthy Breakups

    • August 4, 2011

Most young people engage in multiple relationships throughout their teenage years. The ensuing breakups (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—allow messages to live on in cyberspace long after a relationship has ended.

On July 20, 2011, the Boston Public Health Commission, in partnership with Northeastern University’s Urban Public Health program, hosted "Break-Up Summit 2.0," a Start Strong Boston event that brought together young people and youth-serving organizations to discuss, plan and identify strategies to help teens engage in healthy relationship breakups.

Besides workshops, the summit featured an interactive talk show titled "TrueView: Break-Ups in Media" that included a recounting of notable, unhealthy celebrity break-ups in the past few years. The Commission also distributed a series of tools to help teens build healthy relationship and develop conflict resolution skills, which can be downloaded for free at the following links:

  • 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

The Boston event was preceded by a first-of-its-kind National Virtual Break-Up Summit on July 14, 2011, where teens from across the country came together online to discuss things like, “When is it safe to break-up?” and “What’s the best way to do it?” Teens from all the 11 Start Strong communities participated in online workshops and shared their best practices and experiences ending relationships.

Both the in-person and online summits represent the latest effort by Start Strong to build teens’ relationship skills by teaching them how to recognize healthy relationships and how to know when it’s time to end a relationship. The concept was conceived by Start Strong Boston, and in 2010, the Boston Public Health Commission hosted its first break-up summit, with more than 200 teens from Greater Boston participating.