Boston Public Health Commission to Host First-Ever Break-Up Summit

The Boston Public Health Commission, in partnership with Northeastern University, is hosting the first-of-its-kind "Break-up Summit." The summit, which will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at Northeastern's Curry Student Center Ballroom, 328 Huntington Avenue, will bring together young people and youth-serving organizations to discuss, plan, and identify strategies to help teens engage in healthy relationship break-ups.

"It's normal for teens to have relationships that don't work out," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Commission's executive director. "So, it's important that they have the skills to end a relationship in a healthy way. This summit will give teens those tools and give parents the tools to support them."

Most young people engage in multiple relationships throughout their teenage years, making mistakes and practicing their relationship skills. The ensuing break-ups (at any age) can be messy, uncomfortable, and hurtful. And although "Dear John" letters may be a thing of the past, technology and social media - like texting, Facebook, and Twitter - have upped the impersonal ante.

"It takes two seconds to post a hurtful Facebook status update, short-sighted Tweet, or even a racy 'sexting' picture," said Casey Corcoran, director of the Commission's Start Strong Initiative. "However, those actions can have long-lasting consequences, living on in cyberspace long after the relationship has ended."

Although a "healthy break-up" may seem like an oxymoron, there are steps that teens - and adults - can take to increase the likelihood of a respectful split. As long as there is no abuse, Corcoran recommends ending a relationship face-to-face so that the conversation is not one-sided. He also recommends that people use the "Take 3" strategy that was developed by the Commission: Take a technology time-out, take care of yourself, and take responsibility for your own actions before, during, and after the break-up.

The summit represents the latest effort undertaken by the Commission to build teens' healthy relationship skills, teaching them what a healthy relationship is, and knowing when to end them. Corcoran says that if it doesn't include respect, honesty, trust, and open communication, it is important for teens to have the skills to leave the relationship in a safe and respectful way. Bad break-ups, on the other hand, can leave teens feeling insecure, untrusting, and ill-prepared for future relationship conflicts.

"Just because you are breaking up with someone, you still have a responsibility to respect them as a person," said Terrance Miles, 17, Start Strong peer leader and Dorchester native. "If you have an unhealthy break-up, there can be a lot of residue. It can feel like you never broke up."

The summit will feature a "State of the Break-Up" address delivered by Miles and other Start Strong teen peer leaders. Following the address, teens and adults alike will participate in a series of interactive and engaging discussions and workshops focused on healthy break-ups. The Commission's Start Strong Initiative is also releasing a series of tools to help teens build healthy relationship and conflict resolution skills:

* "Breaking-Up is Hard To Do: Ten Tips for Supporting Your Teen" - A tool for adults to assess their skills around talking to/helping teens through break-ups