Over the years, I've found myself using my own life to teach my children valuable lessons. As a parent, there really is nothing quite as effective as reflecting on your own experiences to help your children navigate their own life.

But not all situations are that simple.

One that comes to mind is teaching them about creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Recently, I used my own experience with this exact thing to help teach my two teens all about it.

I've noticed lately that some of the relationships in my life aren't as healthy as I thought they were. Friendships I once considered strong seemed to be crumbling around me, and I couldn’t understand the reason for the breakdown. I was doing everything I could to maintain the friendships, but I was still coming up short.

That’s when I realized the problem. All of these relationships were one-sided, and that's not a relationship at all. It’s one person doing what they can to make the friendship work while the other person makes no real effort at all. This can be incredibly frustrating, upsetting and exhausting.

And it made me feel sad and inadequate; I thought I was a bad friend. 

But that wasn’t the case. I was actually a good friend who deserved so much more than I was given. So I started spending time with friends who made the same type of effort to see me as I was making to see them. It made me realize how fulfilling two-sided relationships can actually be.

As my own children start to form relationships — both with friends and with someone romantically (someday) — I want them to be able to recognize the characteristics of one-sided relationships. I also want them to remember what they give in a relationship is what they deserve to receive. If they are giving their all, they should expect a similar amount of effort in return. So I told them all about what was happening in my own life. I told them how the bad relationships made me feel, what I did to change and how much better I feel with these new, two-sided relationships. 

Romantic relationships are a little trickier, but can definitely be one-sided. I made sure to teach them when it's time to reevaluate the relationship and make some changes. If the other person sees no fault in their actions, it could be time to move on.

The more they practice building healthy relationships now, the better off they will be when that comes into play later. And hopefully watching me practice what I preach will also be a good lesson in finding value in their friendships and in themselves.


Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for Read more from Amanda »

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