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This project was created by the Jefferson County Communities That Care coalition and is housed within Jefferson County Public HealthThis resource was developed with funding from a Communities That Care grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a grant from Community First Foundation and a Drug-Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.

Twelve Talks to

Have With Teens

Dating

About one third of teens have a dating relationship during their high school years. It is important for adults to understand the dynamics of teen relationship violence, and to talk with their teens about creating healthy relationships.

  • Do teens even use the word “dating”? You would need to ask each teen! Words used to refer to types of relationships vary among teen groups—and tends to change over time—but terms could include: dating, relationships, hooking up, talking, seeing, being exclusive, hanging out and many others. 

  • While dating is a normal part of the adolescent experience, only about one in three high school teens have ever been in a committed relationship. 

  • Teens need to know that in a healthy relationship:​

    • Your partner respects you and your individuality.

    • You both feel safe being open and honest.

    • Your partner supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.

    • Both of you have equal say and respected boundaries.

    • Your partner understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.

    • You can communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences. 

    • A healthy partner is not excessively jealous and does not make you feel guilty when you spend time with family and friends. A healthy partner encourages you to achieve your goals and does not resent your accomplishments.

 

  • Relationship violence is a pattern of behaviors that one person uses to gain power and control over their partner, usually over a period of time, and can be physical, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual.

 

  • Relationships don’t always start out abusive. A teen may value their relationship and may not see that their partner’s behaviors as controlling, unhealthy or abusive. Many times, the unhealthy or abusive behaviors may be portrayed as sweet or romantic, or as a normal part of youth culture. 

 

  • Teens who experience relationship violence face unique barriers such as limited access to resources, attending the same school as their partner, having limited access to transportation or less control over their schedules. It is important to know these barriers because they can help teens create a safety plan.

Content adapted from loveisrespect.com.

Share this video with your teen to help discuss the many different types of relationships and how to recognize if they’re healthy or unhealthy. (1:55)

How to start a conversation

  • The following open-ended questions are ideas to help you get the conversation started:

  • What would your ideal boyfriend or girlfriend be like? How would you expect to be treated? Who do you know that has a great relationship?

  • How do you show your girlfriend or boyfriend that you trust them? Who are your girlfriend or boyfriend's friends? Are you nice to them?

  • What do you consider crossing the line? Checking your cell phone or email? Hurting you, even if they are joking? 

  • What do you do if one of your friends is in a relationship that seems unhealthy?

  • Share this video from Futures Without Violence about digitally controlling relationships and ask them what they think.

Quick tips

  • Don't assume this topic doesn't apply to your teen because they aren't "dating.” Teens frequently do not refer to their intimate relationships as “dating” and most teens do not tell an adult if they are involved in a violent or controlling relationship.
     

  • Make sure your teen knows common warning signs that a relationship is going in the wrong direction:

    • Checking your cell phone or email without permission

    • Constantly putting you down

    • Extreme jealousy or insecurity

    • Explosive temper

    • Isolating you from family or friends

    • Making false accusations

    • Mood swings

    • Physically hurting you in any way

    • Possessiveness

    • Telling you what to do

    • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex

  • Listen to teens talk about their dating experience without judgement and encourage teens to make their own decisions rather than telling them what to do. 
     

  • If you find out a teen is using abusive behaviors toward their partner, call the behavior for what it is and help them find alternatives to their behaviors. Talk about what healthy relationships look like, and how changing their behaviors will create a better, healthier relationship. 
     

Things to do

  • Meet your teen's boyfriends, girlfriends, partners and friends. Invite them to share meals or activities with you and other members of your family.
     

  • Set up clear boundaries for your teen, including any boundaries related to romantic relationships or dating.
     

  • Consider your own relationships and what your youth observes role-modeled. Youth sometimes base their own relationships on those they see among the adults in their lives. 

Help

  • The National Dating Abuse Hotline is available for anonymous and confidential help and information for teens. You can contact them online and by chat at www.loveisrespect.org or by phone at 1-866-331-9474. (Adults are encouraged to call The Hotline.)

  • Love 146 offers resources and information about human trafficking and exploitation, and most importantly, what steps to take as a parent/caregiver to safeguard your teen and others in your community.

Recommended Resource

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Love is Respect: Healthy Relationships

https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/

Other Recommended Resources

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