This article was written by our TeenSafe peer leaders in collaboration with the program’s youth educator. TeenSafe, a program of Journey to Safety, is the JF&CS response to dating abuse in our community.

This year, the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat falls in February, which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Since Tu BiShvat is a day dedicated to planting trees, we started thinking about how growing a healthy relationship is similar to growing a tree.

Just like a tree, a relationship needs different elements to ensure it grows to be strong and healthy:

1. Trust (The Seed)

To grow a healthy relationship, you need trust as the seed that is planted in the soil. Without trust, a relationship can be shaky and the tree won’t grow.

2. A Safe Place (The Right Environment)

Planting the tree in the right environment is important too. Having a tree or relationship in a safe place ensures that it can grow and be healthy and strong. A safe place for a tree might be where it gets enough sun, water, nutrients, etc. A safe place for a relationship might be when two partners are committed to communicating, sharing, respecting and supporting one another. A safe place for a relationship to flourish can also mean being around strong role models and a culture that demonstrates and talks about what a healthy, positive relationship should look like.

3. Communication (Water)

Communication, like water for a tree, is another essential component of a healthy relationship. This means that while not always easy, each person can talk openly and listen to the other and especially be able to compromise when there are different thoughts about how a relationship should move forward.

4. Honesty (Sunlight)

A tree also needs sunlight to grow and develop. Being honest and supportive helps grow the relationship and keep it strong.

5. A Community (Strong Roots)

Trees flourish when they have strong roots to keep themselves in place and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Similarly, relationships are at their best when they are rooted in a community. It is important for both partners to feel a connection to a larger social group, both individually and as a couple. Each partner should feel that they are able to stay with their community and expand their community.

If your relationship has all of the essentials we discussed above, then just like a tree, it can keep growing strong and become amazing and beautiful. But if something is beginning to feel off or unhealthy in any way, find a safe and trusted friend and adult you can speak with.

Check out these great resources on the TeenSafe page and read previous TeenSafe cohort blog posts for more information. The most important thing is to keep sharing your concerns with others who listen and respect you. Our message to you is that it’s not your fault if someone you are in a relationship with isn’t nice or is abusive in any way.

Participate in #Orange4Love Day

Looking for a great way to show your support for healthy relationships? Feb. 11 is “Wear Orange 4 Love Day” when thousands of people across the country will wear orange to raise awareness about the prevalence of teen dating abuse. Through wearing an orange shirt, shoes, jewelry or even nail polish, you can easily foster conversation and spread awareness to others. All of the members of the TeenSafe cohort are very excited to participate in this event, and we encourage you to also wear orange on Feb. 11!

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