Smyrna Middle School

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Healthy Communication and Relationships

In middle school, students are starting to explore who they are and try to find more independence. Friends/Peers start to have more of an influence on them and they start to figure out relationships and love. It is important for them to learn what healthy communication and relationships look like and how to identify what is considered unhealthy. 

Dealing with anger is one way to help improve communication. When you are upset or angry, it is difficult to keep a "cool head." Many times one says things that are not appropriate or not productive and make things worse in the situation. Anger is controllable and one chooses the actions that he/she takes when angry. Controlling anger is easier to do when recognizing what is making you angry, when you can identify your own physical and psychological cues to anger, and when you have calming strategies in mind for dealing with anger. See 1st column below for more about ANGER.
Effective communication is also beneficial to healthy relationships (friends, family, dating). Communication is a skill. No one is a born communicator, but everyone can learn to assert himself or herself while respecting the feelings and beliefs of others. See 2nd column below for COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

Too often, a dating relationship becomes painful and even dangerous before anyone seeks help. Certain feelings and behaviors, however, can alert you to unhealthy and/or abusive relationships. These feelings and behaviors can be called "red flags" that can be seen as warning signs that changes need to be made before things get dangerous. See 3rd column below for "red flags".

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, it is important to seek help.
School Counselor or SRO
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 or chat online at or text "loveis" to 22522

Resources for more information:
That's Not Cool
Break the Cycle
Love is Respect
Physical/Psychological Responses to Anger:
  • clenching fists
  • grinding teeth
  • glaring
  • sweaty palms
  • increased heart rate
  • tensing muscles
  • chills
  • headache
  • red face
  • get very quiet
  • watering eyes
  • difficult to swallow
  • "butterflies" in stomach

 Immediate Calming Strategies Examples:
  • take a deep breath
  • positive self-talk
  • go into another room for a few minutes
  • think of something happy
  • tell the person why I am angry
  • walk away
  • count forward or backward

Later Calming Strategies Examples:
  • go for walk/run
  • listen to music
  • ask someone for advice
  • take a  nap
  • call a friend
  • play a sport
  • watch a movie
4 SAFE Skills for Communication:

Stay Calm 
Use calming strategies to feel cool and collected.

Ask Questions
Ask honest and open questions to better understand the situation. Don't jump to conclusions. After listening to that person's answer, you may realize the conflict was all a misunderstanding. 

Find Out Feelings
Find out how the other person feels about the situation that is causing the disagreement. Express your own feelings -be honest and specific, referring to the situation and what about it upsets you. Use "I" statements when expressing your feelings. Say "I feel (add feeling here) when you (add behavior you don't like) because (add reason for feeling like you do)." For example: "I feel mad when you ignore me because I fell like you don't care."

Exchange Ideas For A Possible Solution
With all of this information, suggest possible solutions. Talk about which ones work best for the two of you. 
Red Flags for Unhealthy/Abusive Relationships:
  • not having your thoughts or wishes for personal space respected
  • not being allowed to, or being too afraid to, make decisions for yourself
  • being afraid to express your own feelings of anger
  • being manipulated or controlled
  • being threatened
  • feeling embarrassed, put down, ashamed, or guilty
  • changing your behavior because of the other person's jealousy
  • losing friends
  • feeling a pounding or fluttering in your chest when the other person isn't happy
  • feeling isolated, maybe even alone
  • feeling afraid of the other person
  • being physically hurt