New group focuses on healthy relationships for teens

Published 6:47 pm Friday, February 7, 2020

The teenage years can be a complicated, confusing time for many young people. Add relationships to the mix, and the stress can be even greater. But a new partnership between Ruth’s House and First Christian Church of Washington aims to help teen girls understand what healthy, and unhealthy, relationships look like.

On Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m. at the church, teen girls are invited to join in that conversation as First Christian and Ruth’s House host “Let’s Taco Bout It,” a discussion group event that will also offer a full taco buffet for participants.

“It will be an open discussion, so we can see where the girls are at and build on that,” said Jaclyn Cullipher, client services coordinator for Ruth’s House. “We’re hoping this will be one of many events we do, so we can build a group and have a monthly Taco Bout It night where we get together and talk about things like consent, dating apps and social media and dating.”

Ultimately, Cullipher says she would like to see the new effort be led by the teens participating, with herself and First Christian Youth Minister Gillian Pollock acting as advisors when needed. For both Cullipher and Pollock, the need to have these conversations with teenagers is especially important.

“I’ve been a youth minister for much longer than I care to admit,” Pollock said. “I’ve seen this kind of downward trend in both boys and girls over the years. They are unaware of the situations they’re getting themselves into, and it seems like it’s happening at a younger and younger time.”

“This is the age of dating,” Cullipher added. “This is kind of the first time they get to pick their people, whether they are their friends, partners or social groups. … Really, it’s trying to teach them how to start recognizing their own gut instinct. That is one of the No. 1 things that can keep you out of uncomfortable or even really dangerous situations.”

Pollock, who works with teens regularly, says the biggest problem she used to deal with was bullying and the occasional teenage girl wearing inappropriate clothing or being promiscuous. Now, with the rise of social media and the constant attachment to cell phones, those issues have multiplied into so many more.

“That almighty telephone that sits in people’s hands is more powerful than anything I have ever seen in my life,” Pollock said. “They have no comprehension of what it can do to their lives, from inappropriate photos to sexting and bullying. That phone controls their lives.”

While the first meeting next week will focus specifically on teenage girls, both Cullipher and Pollock say they would like to eventually bring teenage boys into the conversation, with a combination of separate and co-ed sessions on healthy relationships guiding the conversation.

“It’s hard to talk about dating and it’s hard to talk about sex, especially with the opposite sex in the room,” Cullipher said. “We’re very interested in having some male leaders come to us, and we can work with them on developing the same kind of thing. Then maybe we have them come together every six months to talk.”

Tuesday’s Let’s Taco Bout it will be held from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at First Christian Church. Participants and the community as a whole are encouraged to wear orange that day to in honor of “love is respect” day. There is no cost to attend.