Talking to teens about dating can be uncomfortable. Still, honest and meaningful conversations about relationships can make a significant difference for teens navigating friendships, dating, and decision making.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a time to encourage teens and young adults to learn about healthy relationships and the signs of an unhealthy one. Unfortunately, dating violence continues to be an issue for many teens and young adults. One in three high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their dating partner. Many teens who experience dating violence avoid seeking help or guidance because they're embarrassed, worried about consequences, and afraid of what others, including their peers, might think of them. Having a trusted adult willing to share what they know, listen, and answer their questions, lets them know they are supported regardless of the situation.
As students settle back into the school year, make sure to check in and talk to them about the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships. Consider these topics to help you get the conversation started.
Dating and Entertainment Media
While teens rely on their peers for new information, they are also heavily influenced by entertainment media such as movies, tv shows, music, podcasts and seek them out as a source of information on relationships and dating. Unfortunately, the portrayal of teens and teen relationships on screen and in entertainment is often unrealistic and may highlight and even glamorize negative relationship traits and abusive behaviors.
While watching a tv show, movie, or listening to music, talk to your teen about what they see and help them identify examples of healthy relationships and unhealthy ones. Explain to them that regardless of what they see on TV or online, they deserve to be treated with respect and that abuse of any kind is unacceptable.
Setting Boundaries in Relationships
Every relationship needs boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits and decisions you make regarding your body, emotions, and property, including your personal information and social media accounts. In relationships, boundaries help you decide what you share with your partner. With trust and respect, those boundaries are maintained. Setting boundaries lets others know how you want to be treated and sets expectations for the type of relationships you want to have.
Teens can have boundaries in any relationship. First, talk to them about boundaries they set with their friends, teammates, teachers, and other people in their life. Then, help them decide what boundaries they would set if they were in a relationship.
Asking for Help and Support
If you know your teen is dating someone, get involved and ask to meet them. Pay attention to their interactions and how they communicate. Talk to your teen about their relationship frequently and pay attention to any drastic changes. If needed, use this quiz to help them understand where their relationship stands. Finally, remind them that you are there to support them if they ever need it.
If your teenager wants to talk to someone about dating violence, they can call the national hotline at 866-331-9474, text LOVEIS to 22522, or visit the Love is Respect website and chat confidentially with an expert.
Dating violence is preventable only if we start early and make a concerted effort to educate students about it. So don't wait until it's too late. Start the conversation today.