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5 Tips to Prepare Your Teen for College and Career - Part 4

Dec 12, 2021

Tip #4: Teach them to identify healthy and toxic behaviors

We have all been there. The tragic ending to a relationship, the toxic friend.

In hindsight, we feel like we should have known better, should have seen the signs, should have been able to avoid the pain and heartache.

But hindsight is only helpful if it helps us avoid future pain. It’s more difficult to identify healthy and toxic issues in the present, let alone communicate these indicators to your kids.

Here are three suggestions of what to look for. Ideally, they are simple enough to engage any age in a meaningful conversation.

1 - Do they believe the best in you?

None of us want to be anchored in our past mistakes. We crave those who will encourage us to become our best selves. The ones that celebrate our wins, grieve with us in our losses, and see our lives as a trajectory toward something wonderful.

When we make mistakes and fall short of expectations, there is grace and forgiveness. There is an understanding and expectation that the mistake is a lesson to be learned for a more positive future.

2 – Are they vulnerable?

Vulnerability requires humility. And trust. Without it, the relationship is headed for trouble (at the worst) and limited to a superficial level (at best).

A healthy sharing of struggles and successes, fears and joys deepen a relationship, creates healthy bonds, and allows each person to attune with and encourage the other.

But vulnerability can be a tricky line. On one hand, if someone is defensive about their shortcomings and flaws, and justifying their questionable actions, they may move toward destructive narcissistic tendencies.

On the other hand, be wary of those who share too much too soon. They may expect an equal amount of sharing and get upset if you don’t share, creating an unequal expectation that will need to be discussed.

Vulnerability should be comfortable, equal, and safe.

3 – Do they bring joy?

Are you happy to see the other person? Are they happy to see you? This joy in being in each other’s presence is a key factor to feeling connected.

You don’t have to throw a party each time you see each other (Although that could be fun!). There will always be ups and downs in relationships, but can you both return to joy after challenges? Can you resolve issues that block joy and connectivity?


Obviously, relationships are far more complicated than three simple factors, but these can be powerful indicators of a healthy relationship. If one or more of these is not present, it’s worth the effort to build them in. If there are blocks and significant gaps in these areas though, you will want to take a closer look at this relationship.

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