Western Massachusetts teens learn about building healthy relationships

Hampshire County

(WWLP) – Multiple local organizations have joined to educate teens on the importance of building healthy relationships, through a leadership group.

Through the project, educators teach about ways to recognize abusive and otherwise unhealthy relationships.

The following are the organizations involved in the program:

  • The Ware River Valley Domestic Violence Task Force
  • The Southern Hilltown Domestic Violence Task Force
  • Growing A New Heart
  • The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
  • The Strategic Planning Initiative for Youth (SPIFY)

Educators teach skills on how to communicate during these difficult situations. Situations that teens might not even realize they’re in.

“A lot of teens don’t know how to react to certain situations, then they have to live through it, so having this basic understanding will help us at least know or get a sense of, is this where its going?” student leader, Elishama James told 22News.

The youth participating in the program become the teachers and share their knowledge with friends and classmates as student leaders.

Leah Abel-Waisman is another student leader and she said that abusive and unhealthy relationships aren’t topics teens are usually educated about or are exposed to in a learning environment.

I think it’s really important because I feel like so much of this stuff I learned, I really didn’t learn before. Especially the conflict cycle and ways to have conflict in a safe way, I feel like that’s really important.

Leah Abel-Waisman, Student Leader

Jac Patrissis is the founder of Growing A New Heart, and has been working with people involved in abusive relationships for over thirty years. She told 22News, “When I work with people who cause harm, and we introduce the same things that the young people are learning now, they inevitably say ‘I needed to know this when I was eleven.'”

Patrissis went on to say that these are skills that people of all ages can apply to relationships; healthy relationship education isn’t just for teens.

Educators help the youth determine if relationships are worth keeping, and what it takes for someone to change their habits and actions.

“We need to have this type of program available to teens. It should be on the MCATs. Math, arithmetic and relationship health because it’s just as important to our success in all areas of our lives as any other subject,” Monica Moran from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission said.

The teens who participated in the leadership group are from schools across western Massachusetts, including Amherst, Easthampton, Gateway, Northampton, South Hadley, and Gateway.

For a short video about what these local teens are learning about through this healthy and abusive teen relationship education, click here.

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