Evi Donevan, Registered Psychotherapist in Parry Sound.

Cultivating healthy relationships often begins at a young age.

According to registered psychotherapist Evi Donevan, healthy relationships are the responsibility of adults to teach children.

She says that within the local community, cultivating healthy relationships can be a challenge because so many people do not grow up in loving and healthy homes and do not know what a good relationship should look like.

“So many people grew up not having a clue as to what is right and what is wrong in the area of gender-violence. The focus needs to be on prevention by addressing the root.

It should be started as kids and it really is an adult responsibility to teach children about what consent, respect, and gender equality is and to question harmful stereotypes,” Donevan said.

Common gender stereotypes that Donevan refers to, is that women should be submissive and men think they should be dominant or non-emotional.

“When boys and girls grow up with these (stereotypes), there’s a patriarchal structure that’s obviously been a historical issue and it causes men to believe they have a right to women’s bodies,” she added.

Donevan says for young people to cultivate healthy relationships,  it’s increasingly important to teach young people that they have rights to their own body’s, even as young kids.

“Even if a child feels uncomfortable hugging someone, they should not have to hug someone,” she says. “Awareness raising and community mobilization including through media and social media are really important.”

“What really is important is setting boundaries. I think, even before getting into a relationship, to be able to set those boundaries right away and as soon as those are crossed, that’s it. There should be no acceptance of having your boundaries crossed,” she says.

She says open communication, honesty, and trust are major factors in cultivating healthy relationships. Donevan says she tells  her children when they begin dating, to ask themselves this question:

“Is this person kind, is this person unselfish and, does this person make you a better person.”

Donevan suggests that both men and women should trust themselves, and their gut instinct when it comes to choosing a partner and listen to red flags as they arise in relationships.

When Donevan is advising her clients about relationships, she suggests that an individual examines their own core beliefs or negative core beliefs and depending on what they believe, even if it is”I’m worthless”,  then an individual can often believe they don’t deserve anyone better.

“There are many things in terms of that core belief and often, that negative core belief comes in our childhood through a negative experience,” she says.

Donevan referred to her own life experience. When she was in the seventh grade, she says that a male student had made an inaccurate statement about her appearance and she says that a negative core belief can be easily planted and change the way we think and the way we behave.

Evi Donevan urges young people and even adults, not to be afraid to reach out to someone you trust for guidance. There are many options for counseling and support if you can’t reach out to family members to have those necessary conversations. She suggests speaking to your family doctor, seeking online counseling support, or using community resources such as CMHA or the West Parry Sound Health Centre.