Learning to build healthy dating relationships is an important part of being a teenager. As a parent, you play a key role in helping your teenager understand what is healthy - and what isn't - in their relationships with peers. Talking with your teenager about dating relationships may seem like a real challenge.
Keep in mind that your experience is a great resource for your teen.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Model good relationships. Teens notice when you're respectful in your relationships at home. Show your teen that communicating in a positive way helps build trust and respect.
- Talk with your teen about relationships they see on television or at school. Use these opportunities to talk about what's healthy and what's unhealthy in a relationship.Talk with your teenager about the importance of being respected - and respectful - in a relationship.
- Teach your teen that abusive behavior is not okay. Your teen should be concerned about anyone who is disrespectful, threatening or demeaning.
- Keep the conversation casual. Let your teen ask questions and guide the discussion. Your teen may be more willing to talk if you do it on their terms.
- Learn about digital abuse. This can include excessive texting, sending intimidating texts or emails, and using social media sites to post threats or insults. Talk with your teen about using social medial responsibly.
- Talk with your teenager about the importance of trust and relationship boundaries. Let your teenager know that privacy is important, and they should be concerned about someone who wants to share passwords or constantly check their phone or email accounts.
- Remember that relationships don't have to be violent to be abusive. Talk with your teenager about recognizing the warning signs of an abusive relationship, including when someone is overly jealous, is demeaning or wants to isolate your teen from family and friends.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Be sure your teenager knows that you are available to talk with them at any time.
If you believe your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, your support can be vital in helping them get through this tough time. Teenagers, like others in abusive relationships, often believe their abuser will get better over time. Unfortunately abusive behavior often gets more violent if the relationship continues in the same pattern. If your teen comes to you for help in a relationship, take the conversation seriously. Help your teen make a plan to keep safe and get help, if necessary.
You can find help for teenager with trained peer advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233), who are available by phone or by online chat. You may also want to contact a Military OneSource (800-342-9647) consultant who can refer you to someone who can help.