The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, is a good starting point to start a discussion about what constitutes a healthy relationship.


Friendships are about give and take.

The friendship between the boy and the tree is not a balanced relationship.


Discussion or journal questions after reading “The Giving Tree”:

  • Would you describe the friendship between the tree and the boy as a balanced one?

  • Was there give and take in their relationship? Did they each give to the same degree?

  • What does it mean to have a relationship that is balanced?

  • Are there times in a relationship when we give more than we receive?

  • What happens if we only give? Would that be considered a healthy relationship?

  • Are there boundaries that the tree should have set with the boy?
  • What did the author mean when he said; “The tree was happy. But not really.”


Possible extensions:

  1. 1.   Have students rewrite the Giving Tree with a healthier friendship modeled.

  1. 2.   Create an advice column, have students write in as if they were the tree looking for advice about his relationship with the boy. They can then switch with someone else and answer as if they were the advice columnist giving expert relationship advice or keep their own and respond to it.

  1. 3.   Topher Payne created a new ending for “The Giving Tree” and renamed the book “The Tree who set Healthy Boundaries”. Reread the book with students substituting in the new ending.

  2. Click here to view alternate ending.

  3. For download to print alternate ending, click here.

Ask students what is healthier about the relationship in this new version? List all the ways that the friendship is now balanced and healthy.

Some videos to support the discussion about healthy relationships:

Maintaining friendships can be challenging. It’s not uncommon to grow apart from your friends as you get older and it gets harder to stay in touch. This video has 4 tips on how to keep your friendships strong!

This video talks about different types of toxic relationships and their effects. It gives strategies to deal with these types of toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships take your energy rather than give you energy. This video gives some tips on whether a friendship is toxic or not and what boundaries to set if it is.